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Napa County wants share of $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill

Traffic in Yountville

Napa County leaders want some of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill to help improve the local traffic situation. Above is morning traffic approaching the light on Highway 29 in Yountville.

President Joe Biden signed the trillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill on Monday and local officials say a portion should flow here to address Highway 29 congestion, improve bus service and possibly boost broadband coverage.

“Opportunity” seems to be the watchword.

Napa County isn’t mentioned in a bill that's 1,000 to 2,000 pages, depending on the print size. Local leaders didn’t name one specific Napa County project that has an earmark. There’s no huge check in the mail with the county’s name on it.

Instead, local leaders talked of more formula transportation funds coming to the county for highways, roads, and transit. They talked of more chances to compete for money for specific projects.

Details are still unclear and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will have a say in how regional transportation funds are distributed. But the bottom line for local transportation seems to be a better bottom line.

“Definitely more money,” Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) Executive Director Kate Miller said on Monday.

The county has a long transportation wish list. It includes improving the Highway 29/Highway 12/Airport Boulevard intersection near Jameson Canyon, creating a Newell Drive extension to provide a south county Highway 29 parallel route and easing Silverado Trail congestion.

“Those are projects close to home,” Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said on Monday. “I’m going to make sure we are competitive as we look at these regional funding sources.”

Pedroza is chairperson of the MTC. He can bring the perspective of rural counties to the table for competitive funds, he said.

“That’s why the timing of this is critical for Napa,” Pedroza said.

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill has $550 billion in new funding. The remainder maintains existing spending, according to a report done for the NVTA.

Local trail advocates had sought a $3 million earmark to do engineering, environmental and right-of-way work for a planned Napa Valley Vine Trail link between Yountville and St. Helena. However, the money isn’t in the version signed by Biden.

Still, Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition Executive Director Philip Sales said the infrastructure bill will provide more opportunities to secure more Vine Trail money.

Miller sees a chance to do more for the Vine bus system. She mentioned creating mass transit that is more frequent and direct. Amid a bus driver shortage, she said she’d to see bus driver salaries bumped up.

Infrastructure bill money goes to more than transportation.

The state will receive $84 million for wildfire protection. That will do such things as implement wildfire mitigation programs, carry out forest management projects and help homeowners fireproof their homes, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a press release.

“California will also get at least $100 million for broadband in our state, at a time when more than 545,000 people in our state can’t access the internet,” he said.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors wants to improve local broadband access.

A 2020 report done for Napa County has the long-term goal of creating a 238-mile-long fiber-optic backbone network extending to virtually all parts of the county. This private/public partnership could cost $118 million, but could be built in steps.

California will also receive $3.5 billion for clean drinking water, $1.5 billion for airports, and $384 million for vehicle charging stations, Thompson said.

Thompson attended the signing ceremony on Monday in Washington, D.C.

"I was proud to witness the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act become law and will work to ensure our district and our state can access these critical investments in the years to come,” he said in a press release.

This video shows a wine warehouse being built in the city of Napa from April to late October, 2021.

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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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