I’ve written here before about cities and teams that are looking for a cut of federal infrastructure money to help in building sports venues, now that there’s that trillion-dollar infrastructure bill hanging out there like so much fresh meat. Mostly that’s been a few million here and there, but Oakland mayor-for-another-few-weeks Libby Schaaf, who has about a half-billion-dollar budget hole for an A’s stadium even after putting in $495 million in city infrastructure money, has previously talked about seeking $180 million in “federal grants.” And now we know where that money would come from, and of course it’s the infrastructure bill. As Oakland urban policy advocate Kitty Kelly Epstein wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed:
Thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mega Grant program, communities across the country have been asked to identify their highest-priority projects in the first round of long-needed transportation investment funding to help make U.S. transit safer, more efficient and resilient to future challenges…
Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration applied for a $182 million Mega Grant to help fund what it describes as a “waterfront mobility hub” at Howard Terminal in Jack London Square. In reality, though, the grant would help billionaire Oakland A’s owner John Fisher develop his $12 billion proposal for luxury condos and a stadium far more than it would the public.
The Mega Grant program — MEGA here stands for National Infrastructure Project Assistance, because of course it does — includes a total of $5 billion to be provided this year to local governments for highways, bridges, freight rail, passenger rail, or other “critical large” transportation projects that “would otherwise be unachievable without assistance.” It’s money that the feds are going to spend one way or another anyway, yes; on the other hand, it’s also a finite pool of money, so if $182 million of it goes to the A’s, that’s $182 million that some other city doesn’t get for building some other road or bridge or rail line, which might benefit more people than just one sports team owner.