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Napa County readies for transportation spending

Electric buses, improved water delivery lines, county bridge repairs, projects on Highway 29 and Highway 37 — those are items on the local wish list as potential beneficiaries from the new, $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill.

“This is a big investment and one that will pay dividends for generations to come,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena on Nov. 24.

Thompson and local officials stood next to the Greenwood Avenue stone bridge near Calistoga for a press conference. They talked about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed this month.

California will receive more than $25 billion for highways and $10 billion for transit. The bill will help address climate change, which is the biggest issue facing the nation and probably the world, Thompson said.

“We can get everything else right, but if we don’t get climate change right, it’s all for naught,” Thompson said.

Exactly how much money Napa County will receive from the $1.2 trillion bill remains the multi-million dollar question. But local officials expressed no doubt money will flow this way, some of it through competitive grants.

“In Napa, for us, our water delivery service water is so critical,” Napa Mayor Scott Sedgley said. “And we have aging treatment plants for our water systems. We have 30 miles of large diameter water transmission pipe that’s 100 years old.”

Highway 37 isn’t in Napa County but takes regional traffic that might otherwise clog local roads. State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, talked about improving Highway 37 to ease congestion and deal with sea level rise that in coming decades could put sections underwater.

“This money is going to go very, very well, hand-and-glove so to speak, to that project,” Dodd said.

Napa Valley Transportation Authority Executive Director Kate Miller was asked by the Napa Valley Register to name some specific projects that could benefit from federal infrastructure money.

Miller mentioned improving the intersection at Highway 29/Highway 12/Airport Boulevard. She mentioned improving Highway 29 through American Canyon. Both of these south county areas suffer from traffic congestion.

The money will help create an electric bus fleet for the Vine bus system, she said. An electric bus costs about $750,000 to $800,000, compared to about $600,000 for diesel.

Napa County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Alfredo Pedroza said the county is trying to address climate change, housing, and traffic.

“The fact of the matter is, these issues are interrelated,” Pedroza said. “And now we have an opportunity to compete for these funding sources that are so important to our local communities.”

All of this took place against the backdrop of the historic, broken Greenwood Avenue bridge over Garnett Creek.

Napa County plans to repair the bridge in 2024 or 2025. Money for bridges from the infrastructure bill could help prevent delays, county Deputy Public Works Director Juan Arias said.

Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning talked about the importance of repairing and reopening this bridge near vineyards on the edge of town.

“While this is a beautiful country road, it is a critical evacuation route for us,” Canning said.

The mood at the press conference was nothing but upbeat. County Supervisor Diane Dillon said there's more to come besides the Greenwood Avenue bridge repairs.

"We are going to be able to do infrastructure improvements that we've been waiting to do for some time," Dillon said.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, talks about the new, $1.2 trillion federal Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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