Over the past few months, state and city leaders – including San Jose mayor Chuck Reed – have gone to Washington with long lists of shovel-ready projects. Now, the Bay Area is receiving $1.1 billion in federal stimulus money with San Jose receiving roughly $45 million.
The primary goal of the stimulus is to create jobs and to get the money working as quickly as possible. Because of this, many projects that are ready to go are addressing infrastructure needs like road repairs and streetlight upgrades among other fixes. With an estimated 15 to 20 jobs created per $1 million spent, according to deputy city manager Ed Shikada, the city is looking at 675 to 900 new jobs and is hoping that programs get moving by this summer.
This funding includes $8 million towards increasing energy efficiency in San Jose that will be spent on work like weatherizing government and nonprofit buildings.
The money will also go towards retrofitting streetlights with LEDs so that they will turn on and off automatically as they detect light. Currently, the city spends $7 million a year on electricity to run these streetlamps. The installation of LEDs would cut that number by half.
For many of these projects, the stimulus is a welcome addition but isn’t a cure all.
“We’ve underinvested on infrastructure,” says Shikada. For instance, street maintenance has a backlog of $300 million while just $12 million is going towards much-needed resurfacing. CalTrans is also putting in an additional $30 million to fix sections of the 280 freeway through San Jose.
Other allocations include $6 million to fund an upgrade in security technology at the San Jose airport, $4 million to improve shelters for the homeless and transitional housing for those facing foreclosure, and $3 million to renovate infrastructure like sewers and curbs in low-income areas.
Most of these programs, which are short-term and ready to go within about a year, are guaranteed funding from the stimulus. President Obama has also said, however, that he wants the stimulus to be a long-term investment in priorities like energy and transportation. To this end, the city is also applying for further federal stimulus grants.
Because it will take years to get from engineering to actual construction, one transportation project that won’t be getting guaranteed stimulus dollars is the BART extension to San Jose. However, the city is looking into applying for a grant to upgrade the Diridon rail station to accommodate the eventual convergence of many rail lines there including the BART extension, Caltrain and the high-speed rail.
As part of its long-term goals, San Jose will also apply for a grant to increase industry cluster incubators. In other words, programs in areas like biotech, energy and transportation will be created to help startups, train workers and “continue Silicon Valley’s role as the nucleus for industry development,” says Shikada.
The Workforce Investment Act, which is administered throughout Santa Clara County, is another long-term investment. It will receive $10 million to retrain workers who are in-between jobs or looking for a career change. Half of that money is focused on summer youth employment, underscoring the goal of the stimulus to get people working as quickly as possible.
But even short-term investments will pay off in the long run. Says Shikada, “While it looks like many programs are in construction and for the short term, the benefit will be accrued for many decades.”