The Phoenix metro is a growing leader in the electric vehicle industry, with numerous startups getting off the ground in the region. East Valley leaders have called on U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema’s support in expanding that sector.
That industry along with the need for more federal investment in electric vehicle charging stations and public transit were among the topics of discussion at a Feb. 11 roundtable attended by Sinema and East Valley leaders at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The senator met with leaders including East Valley mayors to receive updates on infrastructure-related issues impacting their towns and cities and how her team could help officials access funding for projects.
Mesa Mayor John Giles asked for Sinema’s support in expanding the electric vehicle sector especially in his city where electric vehicle manufacturer and designer ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. is building an assembly facility.
“This is a big part of our economy,” Giles said. “It is becoming bigger and bigger because it’s not just vehicle manufacturing, it’s also supply chain, batteries, and everything else going on here.”
Federal dollars flowing
Arizona will be receiving $76 million for electric vehicle charging stations, and nearly a billion dollars for its public transit system as part of the infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law last year. The legislation provides $1.2 trillion of new funds to states to revamp roads, bridges, waterways, and other major projects.
Giles called for a better federal partnership as leaders seek to reauthorize Proposition 400 to extend an extra half-cent sales tax to continue funding Maricopa County highways and public transportation systems. He said Mesa had been carrying more than its fair share through bonds and sales taxes, and he’s excited to see the federal government assuming more responsibility.
Sinema acknowledged the need for more investment in transit for the western part of the country. The region sees less investment in transit because its states, like Arizona, rely heavily on vehicles. She said investment in transit is needed to help with the flow of goods, and to help people move between cities, and is looking forward to making sure Arizona get its fair share of transit dollars.
Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson said the recent passage of its $515 million streets, transportation and infrastructure bond package could benefit from the federal legislation including expanding some intersections and increasing street safety.
Access to funding
Traffic crashes were brought up as a topic of concern for other leaders, including Lt. Gov. Monica Antone of the Gila River Indian Community, who said accidents on I-10 impact her community.
Antone said tribal lands face challenges with the lack of telecom and broadband services, which became more highlighted when life turned virtual during the pandemic, and also the need for assistance with irrigation drainage and water systems.
During the meeting, Sinema assured leaders that her team could help them access funding for their projects. Understanding that some towns might not have the expertise or staffing needed to sift through the law, she offered her team’s assistance in helping officials determine eligibility for programs, and support with completing applications and writing letters or making calls.
After the roundtable Sinema, who is chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation, toured the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport with Giles and received a briefing on the airport’s operations and planned projects to show how investments received from the bipartisan infrastructure law were being used.
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport received $4.5 million and will be receiving $22 million in the next five years to grow the operations. Arizona airports are expected to receive a total of at least $360 million in additional federal support over the next five years from the infrastructure bill, Sinema said.
Rising housing prices
As inflation and rising housing prices are a concern for many Arizonians, Sinema said she spoke with the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, of which she is a member, about increased costs for low-income residents needing affordable housing. She said she is working with partners on both sides of the aisle to address the concerns of rising home prices and rental apartments, as well as other goods.
“I’m going to continue working to make sure that any government spending that we do is thoughtful and targeted, just like we did in the bipartisan infrastructure law,” she said. “I believe that a lean and efficient government helps avoid some of the price hikes that we’re seeing consumers and businesses experience right now.”
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