President Joe Biden recently signed a $1 trillion USD infrastructure bill into law, enacting a key piece of his domestic spending agenda that will funnel billions to states and local governments to upgrade outdated roads, bridges, transit systems and more.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act puts $550 billion USD in new money into transportation projects, the utility grid and broadband. The package includes $110 billion USD for roads, bridges and other major projects, along with $66 billion USD for passenger and freight rail and $39 billion USD for public transit.
It invests $65 billion USD into broadband, a priority for many lawmakers after the coronavirus pandemic highlighted inequities in internet access for households and students across the country. The legislation also invests $55 billion USD into water systems, including efforts to replace lead pipes.
Major elements of the package:
$110 billion USD for building and repairing bridges and roads;
$39 billion USD to modernize and improve access to public transit, including replacing buses with zero-emission models;
$66 billion USD to revitalize passenger and freight rail, including updates to the Northeast Corridor;
$25 billion USD to improve airport runways, gates and terminals along with air traffic controls towers;
$7.5 billion USD to build a national network of charging stations for electric vehicles;
$5 billion USD to replace school buses with low- or no-emission options;
$1 billion USD for planning street grids, parks, or other infrastructure to connect communities divided by highway systems;
$42 billion USD to modernize ports and airports;
$50 billion USD for weatherization, drought protection and other climate resiliency efforts;
$55 billion USD to replace lead service lines and provide clean drinking water;
$65 billion USD to increase access to reliable high-speed internet service;
$21 billion USD to clean up industrial waste sites;
$65 billion USD to update power grids.
Federal agencies such as the Departments of Transportation and Energy have the enormous responsibility to implement the law, standing-up new programs and finding safe ways to quickly get money out the door. State and local officials carry an even greater burden; as the owners and operators of most infrastructure, they must design and build new assets, hire more workers, and mobilize their own financial resources.
The bill’s breadth is also considerable, which contains policy reforms and funding for hundreds of programs. Many of these programs have been around for decades — including the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds — and are now funded at higher levels.
New kinds of investments are also being channeled through these existing systems, such as the additional $15 billion USD for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund appropriated solely for lead service line replacement.
Additionally, entirely new programs have been authorized to address essential gaps in the nation’s current infrastructure funding, like resilience. The Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost Saving Transportation (PROTECT) program, for instance, will provide $7.3 billion USD in funding — in addition to $1.4 billion USD of competitive grant funding appropriated through the Highway Trust Fund. The $6.4 billion USD new Carbon Reduction Program within the Federal Aid Highway Program will channel formula funding into bicycle and pedestrian trails, transit and other energy-efficient transportation investments.
The bill is also a first-of-its-kind comprehensive investment in broadband deployment, equity and affordability. For example, there is $48.2 billion USD in broadband funding appropriated to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to address middle mile deployment, digital equity and affordability. Funds are also appropriated across several agencies to address growing cybersecurity concerns, as well as to invest in climate-focused environmental monitoring and R&D.
Federal agencies — from DOT to DOE to EPA — must oversee the surge in funding, including administering new grants and designing new programs. States and localities — from transportation departments to water utilities — must identify and execute needed projects on the ground.
Most projects will not happen overnight. The pace at which federal funds reach different places nationally depends on the types of projects pursued and the types of programs channeling resources to these projects.
Any time governments suddenly increase spending it is likely to have profound impacts on internal government operations, the demand for labor and the related supply chains.
All this new programming will demand more workers. All three levels of government must be ready to hire for a sweeping set of occupations: budget experts, construction workers and skilled tradespeople, conservationists and environmental engineers, and so on.
AmChamUS supports state investment in transportation, public buildings, water treatment systems, as well as other forms of vital infrastructure, which are key to creating good jobs, and promoting economic growth.