State officials prepare stimulus wish list

December 23, 2008 7:48:41 PM PST
The gridlock in Sacramento has already delayed some transportation projects.

But, the hope is that a budget deal will be followed by a new $750 billion stimulus package from Washington.

The money could create thousands of jobs.

California's transportation projects do not just make our roads safer, smoother and sometimes less congested. They are also a major source of jobs.

"From a construction perspective, for every billion dollars that we put out to construction there are 18,000 jobs created," said Bijan Sartipi with Caltrans.

The state says construction and transportation are among the top seven hardest-hit employment sectors.

As of last month, the state's unemployment rate was at 8.4 percent with 1.5 million Californians out of work. That is a half-million more than this time last year and more than 67,000 of those new job losses are construction workers.

Caltrans District Four Director Bijan Sartipi says the state's transportation officials are working furiously with private sector stakeholders like architects, suppliers and construction companies, to come up with a proposal for stimulus package dollars from the Obama administration.

"I think the discussion right now is what can actually be delivered? What is the size of the package that the locals, the state, the transit agencies can actually deliver in 90 days, 180 days, a year and two years?" he says.

Sartipi says right now the assumption is that federal stimulus dollars would accelerate project timelines. But, the money might have to be used to rescue projects jeopardized by the state budget crisis.

For example, the Caldecott Tunnel project needs $175 million in bond money. If that does not flow, stimulus dollars might keep that project on-track.

"Hopefully in January we're going to get something together," said San Francisco and San Mateo Assemblyman Leland Yee.

Yee still thinks current funding plans will survive the budget stalemate, and that stimulus funding would go to other projects.

No one knows for sure.

Sartipi thinks state transportation projects might get $7.5 billion from the next federal stimulus package. He says that money could create as many as 135,000 new jobs.


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