OCTA expects $ 1 billion from Biden’s infrastructure bill

ORANGE, Calif .– In a 31-year career, Orange County Transportation General Manager Darrell E. Johnson never thought he would see that kind of money.

With the signing of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill on Monday, the Orange County Transportation Authority will likely see an additional $ 1 billion spread over the next five years.

But the precise figure the department will receive depends on guidelines to be determined for certain federal programs, including additional funds allocated to rail projects. About $ 100 billion will be available from the Federal Transit Administration. If OCTA wants a piece, it will have to compete with similar agencies across the country.

What would you like to know

  • Over $ 1,000 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden on Monday
  • The Orange County Transportation Authority has an annual budget of about $ 1.4 billion and expects an increase of about 28% in dollars for each of the next five years.
  • OCTA plans to fight for even more money, which could increase the expected billion dollars the agency will receive from tens of millions more
  • The money from the bill will appear in the agency’s budget next summer, with receipt of funds expected in October.

With so much money, state, county and city administrators expect there to be enough for everyone.

Johnson has studied Dwight Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act and the massive transfusions of money he provided.

“I don’t think anyone thought we would see this again. He’s a game changer. It’s generational, ”Johnson said.

The 1956 “Ike” infrastructure money provided for 41,000 freeway miles. Possible changes and taxes on gasoline, tires and buses have accumulated enough money in a federal trust for the government to cover 90% of the costs of new projects.

The Biden administration aims to regain a spirit of investing in public infrastructure, which it says has been in decline since the 1960s.

The more than $ 1 trillion is the latest in a series of large investments requested and signed by the Biden administration. Arguments from Congress centered on the relative breadth of the bill, with early drafts expanding the definition of “infrastructure.” The revisions and cuts have led, now, to a prize pool that will provide at least $ 10 billion to the state of California for roads, bridges and even to help fund its emissions reduction mission.

The state’s emissions targets call for transport agencies to switch to zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. OCTA has already started exploring its options with two pilot programs that respectively test 10 hydrogen buses. and 10 electric buses. Johnson said the type that would work the best would ultimately be bought in en masse with the help of federal dollars. Money has already been allocated, but new money, he said, could significantly speed up the transformation.

This new money will have to be requested and could also help the county to expand its light rail. The project, an expenditure of $ 423 million, is expected to begin operations in 2023. Now there is optimism that the project could be scaled up in hopes of further reducing emissions and daily exploration of traffic in the United States. rush hours.

But Johnson and local city officials are still awaiting information. While some of the money will flow directly to cities and counties, others will be transferred from Sacramento.

Other programs are still materializing, said Johnson, who is awaiting more information on money for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. So far, many of these new charging points have been funded by the state and some local municipalities. Whether the county gets involved in building more is part of what Johnson expects to learn in the coming months.

Many cities in Orange County have already started moving towards state-transmitted green emissions standards. Irvine has already set up hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations – with plans for more – and cities like Laguna Beach have considered replacing city vehicles with carbon-neutral versions.

Anaheim, the county’s largest city with around 350,000 residents, said it was eager to update and improve roads and neighborhoods ahead of billions of planned investments in entertainment. Like other cities, she is waiting to know how much money will be available and how programs like electric vehicle charging stations will be rolled out.

“I think it may be too early for us to get that specific,” said Erin Ryan, city of Anaheim spokesperson.

The money from the infrastructure bill is expected to appear in OCTA’s budget next summer, with funds being received scheduled for October.

Once the money lands, the impact it will have will be measured in decades.

“The benefits are going to be with us for a long time,” Johnson said.

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