Congressman Swalwell advocates for bridge repair funding

SAN LEANDRO — Standing near a bridge that has been rated “poor,” Congressman Eric Swalwell on Friday spoke of how the Biden Administration’s new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help upgrade bridges, overpasses, roads and public transportation throughout California.

Under the new law, California will receive $4.2 billion over the next five years to upgrade some of its bridges, though it remains to be seen if that will include funding for the Washington Avenue Bridge near Lewelling Boulevard, where Swalwell spoke.

“To get 68 votes in the Senate in this era of American politics, that’s not easy, and so I think those senators recognize that the need was out there,” Swalwell said, referring to the final vote to pass the new law. “There’s compromise on both sides.”

The Washington Avenue Bridge connects Swalwell’s district to Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s district. The two co-chair the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee together, and Swalwell said they coordinate on projects in this area.

“As a Bay Area delegation, we don’t cannibalize each other’s projects; we try and work together,” he said. “We’re a team because we recognize that this is a mega-region that is not only just the greater East Bay, South Bay, Peninsula and San Francisco, but it now extends to San Joaquin County.”

Swalwell said he would give the Bay Area’s infrastructure an “F” rating if he were the one making that determination. He’s not too far off; the American Society of Civil Engineers gave California a “C-” rating for infrastructure in 2019 and US News & World Report ranked California 45th among the states for its transportation infrastructure.

The Washington Avenue Bridge was chosen as an example because it is in one of the worst conditions of the bridges in the 15th Congressional District, according to Swalwell. There is an estimated 31,000 vehicle crossings over it every day. If the bridge, which was built in 1954, were to fall into disarray and be declared unusable, all those vehicles would need to be rerouted.

“This is an investment in connecting the disconnected,” Swalwell said.

But the bridge is hardly unique. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, there are 1,536 bridges in California that are considered structurally deficient. They include the Interstate 580 East section that passes over Lakeshore Boulevard and Grand Avenue in Oakland, which sees 182,000 daily crossings.

It’s not just bridges that are getting funding in the infrastructure bill. In California, about $25.3 billion is expected to be given for road projects and another $9.45 billion for improving public transportation.

Combined with Biden’s Build Back Better Framework (which Congress has not yet passed), the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is expected to create 1.5 million jobs per year over the next 10 years. The Build Back Better Framework would allocate funds for issues including climate change efforts, family leave and social services. It is a main point of the Biden administration’s agenda.

“The legislation will help ease inflationary pressures and strengthen supply chains by making long-overdue improvements for our nation’s ports, airports, rail and roads,” the Biden administration wrote of the Build Back Better Framework on the White House website. “It will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone gets ahead for decades to come.”