California’s roads and bridges to benefit from governor’s new budget, but not everyone is happy

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Thousands of California state bridges, as well as crumbling roads, that badly need repair would get a $2 billion shot of new money under the budget revision recently proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Not everyone is happy with the announcement.

The funds are part of Newsom’s May budget changes unveiled in a $267 billion spending plan bolstered by a $75 billion surplus from tax revenue and $27 billion in federal stimulus money from the American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden in March, the Sacramento Bee has reported.

The budget says the state intends to “accelerate vital safety projects and important ‘fix-it-first’ projects on state highways and bridges,” but does not specify which projects would be prioritized.

Russell Snyder, executive director of the California Asphalt Pavement Association, was quoted by the Bee as saying the new spending as insufficient.

He called the new budget “a missed opportunity to accelerate road repairs in a meaningful way.”

Snyder saw “far too much emphasis in the governor’s revised budget for transportation on beautification, muddled climate action plans and other bureaucratic exercises.”

About 6 percent of the state’s 25,763 bridges, or 1,536, are considered “structurally deficient” according to a recent report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. California is widely regarded as having some of the nation’s most congested roads, notably in the Los Angeles and Bay areas — and all of the 10 most-traveled structurally deficient bridges are in those areas.

In its 2019 Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers ranked California as a C- noted that, “California’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition and requires attention” and stated that, “While the state legislature, municipalities, and California voters have made strides in recent years to raise additional revenue for our infrastructure, we have a lot of catch-up to play, and large funding gaps remain.”

In addition to the $2.4 billion proposed to repair state highways and local bridges and accelerate rail projects, the May Revision proposes significant investments in other infrastructure sectors, including $4.2 billion for the High Speed Rail project and $3.1 billion for high-priority rail and active transportation projects, as well as $1 billion to deliver critical projects in time for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The budget states that, “Taken together, these investments will result in thousands of new jobs and spur even more economic activity throughout the state.”

The May Revision also proposes $5.1 billion over multiple years for a water resilience package to expand and protect water supplies across the state. The package supports drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, water recycling projects, immediate drought support to communities, and improves long-term ecological conditions to help species cope with climate change.

Overall, Newsom’s May Revision brings an increase of more than $40 billion to his budget plan first unveiled in January. The Governor’s office calls this budget “the biggest economic recovery package in California history.”

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