The legislation will provide much-needed upgrades to the country’s roads, rail systems, airports, water systems, and electric grid.
Major infrastructure upgrades will soon be coming to every corner of the country. On November 15, the President signed a $1.2-trillion infrastructure package that been voted on favorably by both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
While it is a compromise from the $2.5-trillion plan the Administration originally proposed, the bill still represents a landmark investment in the country’s infrastructure. The Democratic-sponsored legislation is a bipartisan effort, given that it received “yes” votes from a number of Republicans in both houses of Congress. It will address a broad range of needs.
Roads and bridges: The bill will provide $110 billion to repair the nation’s roads and bridges. The White House noted that 173,000 miles – 20% -- of the nation’s highways and major roads are in poor condition. The nearly $40 billion of this amount that is committed to bridges is the largest dedicated investment in bridges since the construction of the national highway system began in the 1950s. The construction and repairs will be done with recognition of the need to mitigate climate change and to address the interests of all users of roads, including pedestrians and cyclists. Within this plan, $1 billion will also be spent to reconnect communities, and that will likely entail redesigning and reconstructing street grids. The goal is to address the negative impact past highway projects often disproportionately had on neighborhoods with large concentrations of Black residents.
Public transit: To modernize public transportation systems, $39 billion will be spent to upgrade existing infrastructure, make stations accessible to all riders, and expand services to more communities. Money will also be provided to state and local governments to buy zero-emission and low-emission buses. Additionally, this spending will help address the current backlog, given that 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars, 200 stations, and thousands of miles of track have been waiting for repairs.
Passenger and freight rail: To improve rail transport, $66 billion will be spent on projects that include modernizing the Northeast Corridor line and bringing rail service to more areas outside the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The package includes $12 billion in grants to help fund intercity high-speed rail service. This commitment represents the largest investment in public transit since Amtrak was established 50 years ago.
Electric vehicles: To help reduce the environmental impact of vehicles that run on fossil fuels, the bill will strengthen the infrastructure needed to support electric cars. It proposes investing $7.5 billion to increase the number of charging stations available across the country. Given that many school buses rely on diesel fuel, it will also provide $5 billion to help cities and towns purchase electric and hybrid buses.
Internet Access: The legislation’s $65 billion for broadband access, provided mostly through grants to states, is designed to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities.
Modernizing the electric grid: The bill will spend $65 billion to improve the reliability of the country’s power grid. Those efforts will include building thousands of miles of new power lines. The spending will also provide financial support for carbon capture technologies and renewable energy sources.
Airports: To modernize airports, $25 billion will be spent to upgrade runways, gates and taxiways, terminals and air traffic control towers.
Water and wastewater: The legislation commits $55 billion to improving water systems and wastewater infrastructure. Of that, $15 billion will go to replace lead pipes and $10 billion to address water contamination to help ensure communities have access to clean drinking water. An additional $50 billion will be spent to ensure water systems can withstand droughts, floods, and cyberattacks.
Environmental remediation: The bill proposes using $21 billion to reclaim abandoned mine land, put caps on orphaned gas wells, and clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, which currently can’t be developed or reused because of the presence of hazardous substances or contaminants.
Financing all this new spending
The five-year spending package would be funded, partly, by redirecting the $210 billion that wasn’t spent on COVID-19 relief and the $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid that some states halted, along with an array of smaller pots of money drawn from various sources, such as petroleum reserve sales and auctions for 5G services.
A major commitment
President Biden has called this legislation, officially titled The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a historic investment that ranks alongside the building of the transcontinental railroad and the country’s interstate highway system. The White House projects these investments could create 2 million jobs per year over the next decade.