The last few months have been an exciting whirlwind for Riverside in getting more of our fair share of state and federal funds. When I first ran for mayor in 2020, one of my pledges was to make our needs heard in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. after years of our city being left out of funding allocations. Seeing this generational short-changing come to an end is celebration worthy. As an environmentalist and self-proclaimed infrastructure geek, it is exciting for me to see so much of this funding going towards parks, roads, and transportation. I will highlight just a handful of the projects that received funding in the last couple weeks.
For a few years now, we have been hard at work to obtain the large sum of dollars needed to enact the Third Street grade separation project—also known as an underpass at Third Stret and the railroad tracks just east of the 91 freeway. Over the years Riverside has constructed several grade separations on Magnolia Ave, Riverside Drive, Arlington Ave, and Streeter Ave. These projects are expensive and take years from the planning, engineering, coordinating with federal rail companies and more. The railroad tracks at Third Street cause one of the longest rail wait times in the city with trains occupying the tracks in that intersection for hours each day. Late last month the city was informed of a $15 million federal grant for the project and last week we secured a $22 million state allocation for the underpass, which now fully funds the project. Construction completion is projected for 2026.
At my State of the City Address in 2022, I pitched the idea of a Civil Rights Walk to link together the various memorials and statues in our downtown. The idea caught on and now we were just awarded a $3.2 million state grant to do the project. Through wayfinding signage, new sidewalks, we will connect these monuments to one another, numerous other nearby historical sites, and share why these stories are important. We hope to break ground within a year.
Other recent funding we received includes $6.5 million for constructing sidewalks in the Five Points neighborhood in Ward 6 and $6.7 million for the completion of a horse, bicycle, and pedestrian trail on Mitchell Ave in Wards 6 and 7.
Now, I will be blunt, skeptics of these state and federal dollars tell me “You should give that money to public safety.” or “All that money should go together to build a new homeless shelter.” However, that is not how grant funding or state allocations work. Grants are monies that are granted for specific projects and allocations are monies allocated for specific projects. The city cannot accept the awards and then use these monies as a slush fund for other projects. Know that while we advocate for funding for much-needed infrastructure projects, we can—and are—advocating for funding for public safety and homelessness programs.
Our relentless advocacy in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. continues. So, more to come as we continue to deliver dollars and results here to home in Riverside.