Padilla Secures California Priorities, Wildfire Resiliency Provisions in Senate Transportation Bill, Pushes for Robust Action on Infrastructure
Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act passes EPW committee with key Padilla amendments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, announced that important California priorities and several of his amendments were adopted in the bipartisan Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021, including a provision that will help make transportation infrastructure more resilient to wildfires.
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act authorizes $303.5 billion over five years to upgrade our highways, roads, and bridges with a new focus on addressing climate change, improving safety, and lifting up all Americans. The bill passed the EPW Committee unanimously and now moves forward for consideration by the full Senate.
California will receive an estimated $25.3 billion in transportation funding over the next five years if this bill is passed and signed into law. The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act makes investments in infrastructure that will serve as part of the foundation for President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
“I’m proud to have successfully pushed for this bill to help California better prepare our transportation infrastructure for wildfires,” Senator Padilla said. “Climate change is exacerbating wildfires and other natural disasters. The decisions we make now will have an environmental, economic, and social impact for generations to come. We must take bold action. We’ve seen transportation decisions in the past that have left working class communities economically isolated and heavily polluted. This bill is step forward, but there is still more work to do to build more resilient, equitable transportation infrastructure.”
A key Padilla amendment included in the bill ensures that vegetation management along roadways is eligible for transportation resiliency funding available through the bill. This is a critical activity to help prevent wildfires in California.
Another Padilla amendment will allow states like California to permit clearly marked vehicles transporting blood to use carpool lanes, as designated by states and relevant transportation agencies. This will help prevent heavy traffic and collisions from jeopardizing the timely delivery of blood.
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act would:
- Fund highway programs with $303.5 billion over five years.
- Increase climate-focused funding from $10 billion in the 2019 bill to $18 billion.
- Establish a new formula and competitive grant program to help states improve the resiliency of transportation infrastructure.
- Allow states to use National Highway Performance Program funding—of which California will receive $12.8 billion—on measures that increase infrastructure resiliency to the impacts of sea level rise, extreme weather, flooding, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
- Clarify that Emergency Relief funding can be used to repair or reconstruct highways, roads, and trails damaged by wildfire and sea level rise, as well as protective features designed to mitigate the risk of recurring damage or the cost of future repairs from extreme weather events, flooding, or other natural disasters.
- $83.6 million in federal funding to California for railway-highway grade crossing projects. Improving public safety by allowing the replacement of obsolete rail crossing warning devices.
- Provide flexibility in the Highway Safety Improvement Program—of which California will receive $1.36 billion—to fund safe routes to schools while focusing on reducing fatalities of vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists.
Following the EPW Committee’s consideration and passage of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, Padilla joined several committee colleagues in urging Majority Leader Schumer to move forward quickly on a robust infrastructure package that meets the scale and scope necessary to meet the ongoing climate crisis, rebuild the economy, protect public health, create good-paying jobs, and address longstanding inequities.
Padilla has been pushing for greater resiliency and equity in the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Earlier this year, he joined Chairman Carper in introducing the Reconnecting Communities Act to help communities identify and remove or retrofit transportation infrastructure to reconnect and revitalize areas that were harmed by the construction of the Interstate Highway System and other infrastructural barriers. In a February 24, 2021 EPW Committee Hearing, Padilla questioned a panel of lawmakers on building a more sustainable and equitable transportation system by addressing climate change, improving resiliency, and creating economic opportunity.