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Bay Area Transit Agencies Seek To Work Together To Effectively Spend $4.5B In Infrastructure Funding

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -- Effectively utilizing the $4.5 billion the Bay Area is expected to receive from the recently passed federal infrastructure funding package will require significant cooperation between the public and private sectors, regional transportation experts said Thursday.

More than two dozen transit agencies currently operate across the nine-county region. That "many cooks in the kitchen" has historically led to difficulties in completing major infrastructure projects, transportation experts said during a panel discussion hosted by the business association Bay Area Council.

"If we're going to ask for this money, we need to be able to demonstrate proof of concept on the ground, (that) we can deliver stuff," Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Therese McMillan said.

The Bay Area is expected to receive its portion of the $1.2 trillion funding package over five years to repair and upgrade aging roads, bridges, ports and electrical and water systems.

Transit projects across the country could also receive additional funding in the form of some $210 billion in discretionary grants, which the U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to dole out over the next five years.

Bay Area transit officials have lauded the bipartisan funding package as an unprecedented level of support for the nation's infrastructure.

On Thursday, McMillan; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Walnut Creek; and Darlene Gee, senior vice president of the infrastructure design firm HNTB argued that the funding also presents "unlimited opportunities" to deliver on long-promised projects.

Doing so, Gee said, will require those involved in major infrastructure improvement projects to escape what she called "an endless doom loop of second-guessing" that has, in the past, led to cost overruns and delays on major projects.

"Working together is a huge factor in making project delivery successful," she said. "And then that working together not only has to be amongst a lot of different stakeholders and agencies, but it has to be the collaboration of the public sector and the private sector -- neither element can do it by itself."

McMillan noted that that collaboration applies to funding as well.

"There is no major project in this region that will be totally funded by federal money," she said.

DeSaulnier, who sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the funding will give the Bay Area the chance in the coming years to be a "national and international model" for completing large-scale infrastructure projects.

"We have such a wonderful opportunity for future generations to really deliver for them," he said.

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