(Photo Credit: Annika_666)
California’s transportation infrastructure needs are well documented. Those who follow the state’s infrastructure needs would most likely give California poor marks when it comes to finding smart ways to pay for and prioritize projects.
The California Transportation Commission puts our unfunded needs at $200 billion just to maintain and rehabilitate existing state and local transportation systems over the next ten years. If that’s not alarming enough, the state needs another $100 billion to improve and expand the system over the next ten years as well.
Thanks to a massive solar project in Imperial County, some of that region’s infrastructure needs are being met.
The Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South just handed over $500,000 to the Imperial County Local Transportation Authority (ICLTA). It’s a significant funding source for transportation improvements in the region.
“The Local Transportation Authority will use the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South sales tax proceeds for transportation improvements throughout the county, benefiting the transportation needs of each incorporated city in Imperial County and the county as a whole,” said Mark Baza, ICLTA executive director.
“And those projects would be everything from pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, to pavement rehabilitation projects, to traffic signal improvements, and safe routes to schools. Some of the money will be to help our transit operations and regional highway projects in Imperial County.”
Tenaska was the first solar developer to make a commitment in its conditional use permit to declare Imperial County the point of sale for all of its solar panels and other goods and services associated with construction. Because of that, the county and the ICLTA can collect local sales tax on the transactions.
“Tenaska estimates that $3 million in sales tax will come from their project and so that is huge and they’ve awarded about $20 million in contracts to local companies, construction companies. It’s a big deal for a county that during the peak of the worst of the recession, our economy had about 30 percent unemployment. We’re still in the mid-20 percent range of unemployment, so any increase in jobs is a big deal to us,” said Baza.
“We expect, by the time they are done, over a million dollars will be generated for our roadway projects.”
Tenaska may be the first, but it won’t be the last.
“The county has other renewable energy projects that are coming on-line that they are requiring that the point of sale is tied to Imperial County.”
This is a game changer for the region, as, like many other California region, where infrastructure needs are great.
“We’re in the process of developing transit centers for our different cities, we’re developing and increasing our transit services, we have regional highway projects that are important for the movement of goods through our region from the border of Mexico to the rest of the Southern California region and other destinations throughout the U.S., so our pavement rehabilitation and pavement of roads that are currently not paved is a big deal here in Imperial County,” said Baza.
“The benefits of the Tenaska Imperial South project for Imperial County continue to grow—from the creation of hundreds of local construction jobs to what now tops $1.5 million in local sales tax payments,” said Robert Ferrara, Tenaska director, development. “This project is helping support the growth of the new economy countywide. Good transportation systems support commerce, moving goods to market and allowing workers to commute to and from jobs.”
Increasing investment in the state’s infrastructure has been voted a top priority in every one of the Summit Regional Economic Forums going on right now across the state. Making sure California’s goods can move will be one of the differences between a growing economy and a stagnant one, regionally and statewide.