CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Across the country, local leaders are working to determine what projects should be prioritized now that new federal infrastructure funding is coming their way.
Last month, we reported on what the funding means for Bradley County.
On Monday, we took a closer look at where Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga plan to put those federal dollars.
Here's how much money is coming to Tennessee:
It would also provide
Last week Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly met with President Joe Biden to discuss the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure law.
On Monday, we spoke with Mayor Kelly's Chief of Staff, Joda Thongnopnua about what some of the city's infrastructure priorities are.
He told us at this point, the city still needs to compete for grants that come down through the new infrastructure bill, but the city has identified priority projects.
Through the Infrastructure Bill, Tn can expect $302 million for bridge replacements and repairs over 5 years.
The city says they want to see funding go towards projects including:
Built in the 1890s and restored as a linear park in the 1990s, the Walnut Street Bridge now needs maintenance that the city estimates will cost $19 million.
"From replacing the wood planks to sandblasting the actual structure itself, it's not an inexpensive proposition," said Thongnopnua.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill means there are more funds available to make much needed repairs to the Walnut Street Bridge, and some of the city’s other important bridges.
"It opens up new buckets of money for us to access and apply to projects that have been in the hopper for a really long time," said Thongnopnua.
The city says both the Wilcox bridge and Wilder Street Bridge need to be completely replaced.
"Right now, fire trucks and first responders can't effectively go over those bridges because they exceed the load limit ... Whenever we have load limits that prevent them from crossing over the bridge, we can go from having a five minute response time to a 17 minute response time," said Thongnopnua.
The city estimates it will take at least $30 - 35 million to replace the Wilcox bridge, and at least $15 million to replace the Wilder Street Bridge.
Thongnopnua explained that one of the more effective ways to complete these bridge replacements is through a federal RAISE grant, which existed even prior to the new infrastructure bills' passage.
But Thongnopnua explained that as a result of the recently signed infrastructure bill, there are additional dollars that the city would not normally be able to access.
He explained that federal funding for these bridge replacement projects will come to the city through competitive grant proposals.
"We are going to have to compete with other cities across the state. But I know for a fact that we are going to be competitive," said Thongnopnua.
Thongnopnua says Mayor Kelly's administration has bolstered the teams that will work on these grant proposals in hopes of bringing these funds to Chattanooga.
The city says they also plan on prioritizing investments into electric vehicle infrastructure and other infrastructure that supports climate change resiliency.
Thongnopnua pointed to the expansion of Novonix as to why these investments are important.
The battery making company produces synthetic graphite here in Chattanooga.
Synthetic graphite an important component in lithium batteries which are used for everything from smartphones to electric vehicles.
"Those are the kinds of companies and infrastructure pieces that we'll be able to continue to attract if Chattanooga invests in climate resiliency, and sustainability over the long run," said Thongnopnua.
We also reached out to TDOT for an update on how these federal funds may be utilized. TDOT told us they are still analyzing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and waiting on funds from it to be authorized.
TDOT says they will begin considering projects as part of their 3 year plan in the coming weeks. These projects would become part of TDOT's legislature budget that will be passed in the spring.