Gov. Newsom touts transportation goals in Santa Clara
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about the transportation components of his budget proposal at the Santa Clara Depot on Jan. 13. Caltrain board Vice-Chair Charles Stone and Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor stand in the background. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

With trains roaring in the background, Gov. Gavin Newsom joined local and state officials in Santa Clara to promote some transportation and infrastructure investments in his budget package.

The proposed budget, released earlier this week, includes $9.1 billion in new transportation spending. The new source of funding advances clean energy projects to address greenhouse gas emission concerns, increase use of zero-emission vehicles and repair roads and bridges to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, among other things.

The budget also sets aside $4.2 billion for the state’s troubled high-speed rail project in the Central Valley.

“There is an integration and intentionality in this year’s budget to focus on bringing together issues related to climate, health, economic development, workforce development,” Newsom said Thursday. “And there’s no greater place to connect those dots than the areas of infrastructure, and notably transportation.”

The governor also plans to commit $10 billion toward zero-emission vehicles over two years. California has received $384 million in federal funds to advance its efforts over the next five years.

“There is no state in America that comes close to our commitment of radically changing our system of transportation,” Newsom said.

Last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to order a ban of new gas-powered cars by 2035, which has prompted a movement beyond the state, Newsom added.

“We’re not playing in the margins,” he said. “And we are taking our efforts to a whole new level.”

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski said Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to address climate change with zero-emission vehicles is essential. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

Newsom, who’s seeking reelection this year, announced a $286.4 billion budget proposal Monday. The state is projecting a $21 billion surplus in the upcoming fiscal year thanks to a strong economic recovery and high tax revenues. The governor’s plan will need approval from the state Legislature, which must pass a budget by June 15.

Transportation agencies in the South Bay are also expecting $66 billion in federal funding this year. The monies will enable the $7 billion extension of BART to downtown San Jose and the $2 billion electrification project for Caltrain.

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, who represents part of Santa Clara County, said Newsom’s commitment to address climate change through zero-emission vehicles is essential, as 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state come from transportation.

“This is gonna be a tough fight coming ahead with all this funding,” he said. “But we’ve got to do a better job in the short term.”

Local lawmakers and transportation officials are rallying behind Newsom’s plan.

“As the kids say, we at Caltrain are here for it,” said Charles Stone, vice-chair of the board of directors at Caltrain.

Caltrain is in the process of electrifying its rail system. With plans to finish by 2024, the project will provide 51 miles of green public transportation between San Francisco and San Jose.

“We believe the electrification project will lay the foundation for our state’s coming high-speed rail system, which will propel California to the forefront of our nation when it comes to transportation,” Stone said.

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor also thanked the governor for his proposal, adding his priorities in community-based projects will help the city improve safety on the roads for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We’re counting on you, governor,” she told Newsom after the news conference.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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