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Local governments will likely need to supplement federal infrastructure money

Bridge Infrastructure
Posted at 5:01 AM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 07:06:49-05

DEL MAR, Calif. — The new bipartisan infrastructure law promises to fix a lot of the country's transportation issues, from mass transit to highways and bridges. However, in many cases, local and state governments need to provide resources as well to qualify for some of the funding.

CLIFFS AND TRACKS

There may be no better example of the problem than in Del Mar, California. Near the beach, railroad tracks sit atop a bluff that is eroding.

"The ocean, the wave action, the rain is eroding the cliffs next to the track," said Sharon Humphreys, an engineer in San Diego County.

Humphreys estimates the cliff is losing about 1-2 feet a year. While the tracks are currently stabilized and safe, she believes the inevitable will happen.

"We want to get the tracks off the bluff," Humphreys said.

While it might sound like a local problem that doesn't impact a lot of people, Humphreys says the issue is far-reaching.

"What we are looking at is the second busiest corridor in the U.S. for rail," Humphreys said. "One-in-10 cars sold in the U.S. comes along this track."

WHY INFRASTRUCTURE ISN'T ENOUGH

Congress passed a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill late last year. But some say that isn't enough money to fix the nation's problems, particularly the tracks in Del Mar.

"It's going to cost a lot of money," Hasan Ikhrata said.

Ikhrata is the CEO of Sandag, a government organization that oversees transportation projects in California. He says it will cost billions to create a new tunnel and move the tracks inland.

While the new infrastructure law will likely provide some funding to get money to the region, he says local governments will need to come up with some of the cash, too.

"I have not heard of one single project that was fully funded by the federal government," Ikhrata said.

If local governments don't want to dish out the money, or if they don't have it, new elections or political debates will take place to increase things like sales taxes.

"We are going to go to the voters two, three times again to ask them," Ikhrata said. "If they say nay, none of this will happen."

CRITICS OF TAX HIKES

Across the U.S., there are critics of tax hikes, especially for transportation.

"The voters have been deceived," said Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, a nonprofit that says its goal is to hold the government accountable.

He says voters nationwide aren't just going to give local leaders a blank check without explaining where past hikes have gone.

"We are fighting for government accountability and transparency," DeMaio said.

That's a fight Ikhrata and others nationwide welcome.

"The cost of not doing it is much higher," he said.