PHOENIX — Senator Kyrsten Sinema was outside Metrocenter Mall Friday, meeting with Valley Metro and city leaders discussing the next steps for federal infrastructure funds.
The projects have been well documented, from light rail extensions and streetcars to the feasibility of electric buses. The senator asking questions and providing input on how she can help the projects move forward.
"My team and I are spending our time focused 100% on getting those dollars out to Arizona as quickly as possible," Sen. Sinema said, in an one-on-one interview with ABC15.
According to the White House, Arizona is slated to receive some $5.8 billion for highways and public transportation.
The grant process, which can often take years, is forcing local leaders to reach out to Sinema in Washington, hoping to help push things forward.
"You shouldn't have to contact your United States senator to get approval for a permit to do this kind of work."
Sinema said she'll be working closely with Mitch Landrieu, who is helping the White House oversee the funds.
"I will reach out to agencies and Mitch Landrieu to say, this is where the bottleneck is happening, this is where the red tape is, and break through that together," Sinema said.
Environmental studies are often the most time consuming, according to Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith, but they are also very important.
"In Arizona, there's nothing we value more than the beauty of our environment, that's why we live here," Sinema said.
Sinema said she and her co-sponsor Rob Portman put specific language in the bill to streamline the permit process while still meeting federal standards.
"We want to make sure we protect it without slowing the speed of business or growth."
Sinema also met with tribal leaders to discuss their most pressing infrastructure needs, including clean water and access to broadband in rural communities.
"One thing I'm really proud of is every single Indian water right settlement in the country is now fully funded, so all tribes will receive full funds for those settlements," she said.
"I'm looking forward to getting those dollars out quickly and I'm so grateful to be working with our tribal partners"
As for her most immediate focus, Sinema says she's looking to mitigate Arizona's wildfire risk next season.
"Getting dollars on the ground immediately to help prepare for fire season is one of my top priorities."
"The forest service is already sending money down to Arizona for us to use in fire fighting and mitigation," Sinema said.