LOS ANGELES — The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act promises to revitalize roads and transit across the country. California will probably be one of the states getting the most cash from this law.
What You Need To Know
- The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments is the agency behind the new underpass in Pico Rivera, which will separate Durfee Avenue from the railroad tracks
- The project’s chief engineer says securing labor has them “competing with other infrastructure projects”
- People who have experienced major setbacks can start new careers thanks to free training programs put on by the Southwest Carpenters Union
- Routes to gainful employment could be open to more people with added funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Chief engineer Eric Shen wears boots to walk on Durfee Avenue because during construction it’s just a dirt path. Work began in 2020 to separate the road from the railroad tracks.
They’re building the underpass partly because of the past deadly collisions at the intersection, so Shen believes this job goes well beyond saving time for commuters.
“Where little kids had to wait at a train track waiting for three to five even 10 minutes for the trains to go by, breathing all the diesel exhaust, in the next five years kids will grow up in this neighborhood not even thinking about that was what used to be,” said Shen.
The project is expected to cost $107.8 million. While the supplies have already been bought and paid for, perhaps the most unpredictable part is finding workers.
“We do find ourselves competing with other infrastructure projects,” said Shen.
With each passing year, Congresswoman Linda Sánchez believes hiring in this industry gets harder.
“We are in need of recruiting more young people into the trades… The average age of a construction worker in California is 45,” said Sánchez.
A prime candidate would be someone like apprentice carpenter Ronisha Roberson. She’s in her 20s with a lot of experience yet to gain, but what she lacks in wisdom she makes up for in enthusiasm. That’s a useful tool when you’re on a deadline.
“We have to do anything to get the project done before time. We don’t want to do anything to delay it,” said Roberson.
Roberson is formerly incarcerated.
It is her daughter’s smile that motivated her to make serious changes. A free Southwest Carpenters Union program opened a door she had never considered.
“Now I feel really good 'cause I’m stable to where I’m making enough money… I can go in the store and get her anything she wants,” said Roberson.
Roberson works and takes classes. It’s a route to gainful employment that could open to more people with added funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Even though Shen is looking forward to wrapping up the Durfee Avenue project soon, there’s certainly no shortage of opportunities for Roberson to cut her teeth.
The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments is the agency behind the work on Durfee Avenue. That underpass is one of several dozen grade separations projects meant to lessen the effects of enormous increases in traffic on over 70 miles of mainline railroad.