"We know that the dollars in the federal government are hard to get, which is why this funding is significant," said SF Mayor London Breed at a Monday morning event at the Roundhouse Cafe at the Golden Gate Bridge, celebrating a major new grant from the Biden Administration.
Breed, along with House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Marin), Rep. Kevin Mullin (D-SF/San Mateo), and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, all spoke at a press event Monday morning that began at 10 a.m., celebrating a federal grant of $400 million to retrofit the Golden Gate Bridge and protect it from potential earthquake damage. This is funding for a final phase of the ongoing retrofit project, and Pelosi noted it was one of the biggest allocations of resources in the country so far from President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
The grant was earlier announced by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, and multiple speakers at Monday's event pointed to Pelosi's leadership in the House as being key in getting that infrastructure bill passed.
Landrieu, who was previously mayor of New Orleans and lieutenant governor of Louisiana, said, "The symbolism of this bridge is important... Up to 2,700 bridges are being repaired as we speak. But there are some bridges that are more iconic than others."
Landrieu also spoke of the bonds between his and Pelosi's families going back decades, and he personally thanked her for her congressional leadership as well as for her visits to New Orleans multiple times after Hurricane Katrina.
Landrieu joked that he and Secretary Buttigieg "rarely fight" over places they need to show up for various events around infrastructure projects, but they both insisted on coming to San Francisco.
Good morning!— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) January 23, 2023
We're in San Francisco today, marking infrastructure investments that will improve the Golden Gate Bridge and increase its resiliency against earthquakes. pic.twitter.com/ajeFps76Gw
"Mitch is right. Usually we divvy up the places to go because there are so many hundreds and hundreds of projects," said Buttigieg. "But you couldn't keep both of us away from the chance to be here, in one of the world's great cities, celebrating an investment in one of the world's great bridges."
Buttigieg spoke about the vital link provided by the Golden Gate Bridge between the San Francisco Peninsula and the northern parts of the region, and the devastating impacts that would ensue if the bridge became unusable or worse following a major earthquake.
"The significance of the Golden Gate Bridge is not just a matter of its vivid place in our American landscape," Buttigieg said. "It's also very much a working piece of infrastructure and an essential one at that... Without improvements, its structural elements would become more vulnerable each passing year."
This is why, Secretary Buttigieg said, the Biden-Harris Administration is "so proud to award $400 million to retrofit the Golden Gate Bridge to make it safer and more resilient in the future."
Join @LondonBreed, @SecretaryPete, @MitchLandrieu46 and me for an event on a $400 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the Golden Gate Bridge — ensuring that this iconic landmark can withstand the impacts of a major earthquake. https://t.co/5rz6sjP2Ud— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 23, 2023
The funding provided by the grant, Buttigieg said, will pay for "40 energy-dissipation devices," as well as work to "strengthen the bracing and floor beams, retrofit the towers, and more." And he noted that this will, in turn, create hundreds of good-paying union jobs over years to come for sheet-metalworkers, ironworkers, electrical workers, and others.
Buttigieg also noted that the "large bridge section" of the infrastructure program got over 40 applications seeking $11 billion in funding. And only four of them could funded this year, including the Golden Gate.
Pelosi spoke last, and she, like Landrieu, recalled her first time driving over the bridge when her father had "just finished being mayor of Baltimore" and the family was on their way to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
"Now, I thought it was going to be golden," Pelosi said. "But it was orange. Perfect."
Pelosi also spoke about how before there was a bridge, the Golden Gate itself was "always there," as a gateway into this country for "newcomers, especially from Asia."
"Later, that's where our troops would come home from war," Pelosi said. "And the first thing they would see is this bridge... The bridge is the physical infrastructure, but it is a manifestation of... coming to, or coming home to America."
Construction on this phase of the retrofit project is scheduled to begin in late 2024, and to be completed in 2029.