Worley Blog

FINALLY

Posted on: November 16th, 2021 by Clifford F. Lynch

 

On November 5, the House of Representatives passed the long awaited and long overdue $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. (HR3684). This legislation which was approved by the Senate in August is now on its way to President Biden for signature. It is the largest public works bill since President Eisenhower created the current interstate system in 1956.

It is also a result of one of the largest political battles in recent memory. Passed by a margin of 228-206, it has been a classic example of how broken our Congress really is. To give credit where credit is due however, regardless of your political affiliation, President Biden has accomplished something the last few presidents have been unable to do.

By now, most of us are familiar with the infrastructure facts. About 20%, or 173,000 miles of our country’s highways and roads and 45,000 bridges are in poor condition. The bill provides $110 billion for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects, although this is just a small portion of what is really needed. Forty billion dollars of this is allocated to bridge replacement and repairs, leaving only $70 billion for highways.

Eleven billion dollars is set aside for transportation safety programs, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.

One billion dollars is to be spent to “reconnect communities that have been divided by highways and other kinds of infrastructure”. This would be accomplished through the addition and modernization of bus fleets and other infrastructure upgrades.

The president’s favorite mode of transportation – Amtrak – will get $66 billion to modernize the Northeast Corridor line and make other improvements. Although the president wanted $80 billion, it still will be the largest investment in Amtrak since its creation.

High speed internet will get $65 billion. According to the White House, this will ensure that “every American has access to reliable high speed internet with an historic investment in broadband and infrastructure deployment.” Such a need was very obvious as schools and medical facilities went online during the pandemic, revealing many millions without internet access.

Seven and a half billion dollars will be spent on zero emission buses, with thousands of these replacing existing school bus fleets.

One of the most forward looking inclusions is the $7.5 billion allocated to the building of a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers, Five billion dollars will be spent to build out a recharging system along the highways, and $2.5 billion will be allocated to the development of alternate forms such as hydrogen.

Seventeen billion dollars will be spent to repair, modernize, and maintain ports, and $25 billion will be spent on airports with maintenance, congestion, and emission problems.

The nation’s electric grid will see a $65 billion investment in new power lines and renewable energy. An additional $50 billion will go toward protecting the system from floods, cyber attacks, and other threats.

Finally, $55 billion will be spent on water infrastructure upgrades.

The legislation did not include several of the president’s requests, such as those for the aging and disabled, workforce development, and VA hospitals; but at this point, we should be thankful for what we did get.

The funding methods seem somewhat elusive, i.e. unused Covid funds, delaying some Medicare expenditures, Superfund fees, etc; but bottom-line, it appears that abut $350 billion will be added to the deficit.

As painful as the passage of this legislation has been, it will be a significant step toward improving our highway and bridge infrastructure, broadband capabilities, and other infrastructure shortcomings.