Bay Area waits for money from stimulus

April 14, 2009 7:14:33 PM PDT
Federal stimulus money has finally reached the golden state. It hasn't created any jobs yet, but Caltrans started taking bids on a $22 million, Highway 80 project in Solano County. However, many other cities and agencies are still waiting for money.

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It took two months for Caltrans to get its stimulus money. But for others, including Mineta San Jose Airport, it could be an even longer wait.

This is the goal -- to get people working on projects that benefit the public. But sometimes, getting government to work can be tough.

South Bay Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren tells of frustration energy secretary Steven Chu ran into.

"The Energy Dept. was taking at that time two years to get funding out the door, which was completely unsatisfactory. So he's brought in a team actually from Agriculture who gets their grants out in six weeks," said Rep. Lofgren.

The $2.2 billion in stimulus money Caltrans has received will create 18,000 jobs. Groundbreaking on Highway 80 improvements near Fairfield will start in two weeks.

But for other agencies, such as mineta san jose international airport, approval may not come until June.

It has an $8 million request to improve a terminal apron, and another $6 million application toward a new taxiway.

"The challenge is to get that into play quickly as possible, to generate all different kinds of jobs, and to do it in a way that has good accountability," said San Jose Mineta Airport Spokesman David Vossbrink.

Mineta San Jose joins San Francisco International waiting for stimulus money. Among cities, so are Oakland and San Jose. San Francisco did not call us back.

Others also waiting include BART, Oakland schools and the Port of Oakland.

The solar industry is also gearing up to apply for stimulus funding.

"I think there's an intense focus on where's the stimulus money going to be spent and what the intention is, and it's very clear that clean tech is going to be a focus area," said Sunpower CEO Tom Werner.

However, the guidelines and applications for solar grants won't be ready until June.

The solar industry anticipates the money will create 110,000 jobs over the next two years.

An imprint from 1941 reminds us that stimulus money paid for this sidewalk. Someday, stimulus money in 2009 will do the same for the unemployed.

"To those who are unemployed, stick with it. We're on your side, and this is going to take a while to get out of this ditch," said Lofgren.

Stimulus money is also creating an unexpected benefit. Because construction is in a slump, the lowest bid for the highway 80 project came in 35 percent below the estimated cost.

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