Phoenix leaders optimistic about new federal funding for transportation projects

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2022 - 4:19pm

19th Avenue light rail line
Christina Estes/KJZZ
The 19th Avenue light rail line near Bethany Home Road in Phoenix.

As construction continues for two light rail extensions in Phoenix, leaders are feeling optimistic about adding more. On Wednesday, Deputy City Manager Mario Paniagua told the city’s transportation subcommittee, the amount of federal funds available over the next five years is nearly double the amount of the previous five years.

“Our next planned extensions, as you know, are to the state Capitol and out to I-10 west, once the extensions to south central and the Metrocenter are complete. And so, we’re really excited about the opportunities here to help fund our light rail system moving forward,” he said.

Phoenix must compete for the light rail grants that are part of the Federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act of 2021, also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It includes $1.2 trillion over five years for transportation, electric vehicles, water services, broadband and other projects.

Based on a distribution formula, Phoenix’s Aviation Department expects to get $222 million and Public Transit Department expects $300 million. Billions in additional funding will be available through competitive grants.

When competing for grants, Paniagua said projects with a regional benefit will likely get more funding. And, he said, funding will also focus on equity.

“The Justice 40 Initiative that President Biden signed in an executive order that says 40% of all benefits of federal investments need to go to disadvantaged communities,” Paniagua said.

That means communities with obstacles like high poverty rates, bad air quality and hazardous waste sites. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would use $1 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to clear the backlog of 49 unfunded Superfund sites and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites.