‘Our roads are in bad shape’: Biden infrastructure bill provides hope for Humboldt County roads

Biden infrastructure bill provides hope for Humboldt County roads

April 01, 2021

The possible impact of the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan, a proposed jobs bill that includes provisions for rebuilding infrastructure, is being seen as a major opportunity for Humboldt County and local cities to complete projects and renew existing infrastructure.

The $2 trillion bill was first announced by President Joe Biden on Wednesday and includes provisions for infrastructure repairs, transportation, housing and job creation, among others.

It will be sent to Congress to be approved in what is expected to be another contested process, similarly to the recent COVID-19 relief bill. The final version of the bill may differ from current provisions and funding stipulated.

Humboldt County Public Works director Tom Mattson said infrastructure discussion and funding was long overdue. The county is currently sitting on over $250 million in deferred maintenance projects.

“It’s been a long time coming since we have talked about infrastructure and it’s sorely needed not just in Humboldt County, the nation as a whole is way behind on infrastructure. It’s a good thing to have this coming forward,” he shared.

While Mattson does not know the full details of the bill and its specific provisions, he said the county is currently putting together a master list of requests from all agencies.

On his department’s end, asking for funding for road repairs and a gateway project in Garberville are his priorities.

“Our roads are in bad shape, the primary thing that we need is money to overlay the roads and get them into good shape,” Mattson stated.

Arcata City Engineer Netra Khatri shared the city will be seeking any coming funds to improve municipal infrastructure, though he doesn’t know what the application process will be like.

Arcata has recently received money from the CARES Act for transit projects, Khatri said. The city is applying for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan for its drinking water project.

He is optimistic of the possible local impact of the American Jobs Plan.

“If we get it, it will definitely improve infrastructure. We will be seeking the ways of getting the funds to the city to improve infrastructure, like the city’s roads, the sewer and water systems,” he said.

Similar to Khatri, Eureka Public Works Director Brian Gerving does not know what the application process for the new rounds of funding and programs provided by the bill will be like. He also noted it is difficult to know what the specific implementation would look like locally until a final bill goes through the U.S. legislative bodies.

He has taken note of what provisions can help in funding projects the city council has prioritized.

“The most intriguing things in this bill based on Eureka’s needs and priorities that the council has set us to work on are covered by the $20 billion nationwide for safe streets for all users, to create safe routes for bikers and pedestrians in our city, the $65 billion in grants and loans for clean water for tribal, state and local entities nationwide, and additional funds for broadband infrastructure,” Gerving said. “All of these are priorities for the city of Eureka, where we often face funding constraints.”

North Coast U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) lauded the bill.

“This is a transformational plan that will bring our infrastructure into the 21st century with a focus on equity, jobs, and resilience – and I’m looking forward to working with the Biden administration to advance this plan and deliver solutions to build back better,” Huffman said in the news release.

By:  Mario Cortez
Source: Eureka Times Standard