After months of debate and negotiations, Congress has passed a comprehensive measure to upgrade many parts of the country’s infrastructure. The bill provides US$1.2 trillion in funding, including $550 billion in new federal spending; The remainder renews and updates existing transportation programs such as highway construction.
While the bill is smaller than President Joe Biden’s original $2.6 trillion request, it still represents the largest federal investment in US infrastructure in more than a decade. A White House statement said the legislation would “promote the creation of well-paying union jobs and grow the economy in a sustainable and equitable manner.”
These five articles in our archives analyze some of the infrastructure needs that will receive new funding.
1. Fixing crumbling bridges
The infrastructure bill provides $110 billion to fix thousands of old roads and bridges across the U.S. That money would be especially welcome in Alaska, where climate change is melting permafrost — accelerating the erosion of steel bridges. doing – and melting the ice of the river that many people used to cross snowmobiles. Less than half of the state’s bridges are considered to be in good condition.
As Penn State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks report, “When snow is unstable or unpredictable, people relying on river crossings are trapped and at increased risk of snowmobile fatalities.” “Federal infrastructure investment can help direct funding to rural bridges that might otherwise have deteriorated.”
Read more: Infrastructure bill passed by Congress promises billions to repair bridges – rural Alaska shows growing need as temperatures rise
2. Building the Power Grid of the 21st Century
Energy experts widely agree that the US needs to upgrade its electric grid so that it can deliver electricity more reliably over longer distances and integrate more renewable electricity into the country’s energy mix. The infrastructure bill includes $65 billion to update and expand the grid.
According to James McCulley, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Iowa State University, the fragmented American power system known as a macrogrid—a network that can move electricity seamlessly from one end of the US to the other—is in fact can save money. This is true, even if it would mean adding hundreds of megawatts of new generation capacity and new transmission lines to connect those power plants to customers.
“By making it possible to share electricity across regions and deliver high-quality renewable energy from remote areas to load centers, Macrogrid will more than pay for itself,” writes McCully.
Read more: America needs macrogrids to move electricity from areas that make it to areas that need it
3. Making roads safe for pedestrians and bicyclists
The infrastructure bill provides for $11 billion for measures designed to make highways and roads safer. This includes investments to improve facilities that protect pedestrians and cyclists, such as updated sidewalks, bike lanes and street crossings.
John Rennie Short, an urban policy expert at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, says these measures are overdue. “In the 21st century, a new city ideal has emerged as a more bike-friendly, pedestrianized city. But bike lanes, pedestrian zones and piecemeal implementation of traffic calming measures often add to the confusion,” he writes. “More people are being killed as cities encourage residents to walk and bike.” But their roads are still dominated by speeding vehicles.
Read more: Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians
4. More EV Charging Stations
Experts widely agree that slowing climate change requires a massive global shift from fossil fuels to low- and zero-carbon energy sources. That shift is underway in the auto industry, where carmakers are pouring billions of dollars into new electric vehicle designs.
But the EV revolution faces a significant speed bump: not enough public charging stations. The infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion to expand the existing US network, which today mainly exists in coastal states.
Stanford University historian Paul N. Edwards calls the funding “a small but real down payment on a more climate-friendly transportation sector and electric power grid that will take years to build.” While the upfront cost may seem high, Edwards notes that “in the long term, the potential savings of avoiding climate risks such as droughts, floods, wildfires, deadly heat waves and sea level rise will be enormous.”
Read more: Climate change is an infrastructure problem – map of electric vehicle chargers shows one reason
5. Reconnecting Divided Neighborhoods
Most of the funds in the infrastructure bill are for building new facilities or upgrading existing facilities. But the law also provides $1 billion to break down highways that have cut off black residents and other people of color from their surrounding cities, reducing their access to transportation, jobs and economic opportunities.
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“As we see it, this funding represents a down payment on restorative justice: removing intentionally discriminatory policies that plague polluted and transit-poor neighborhoods such as West Belfort in Houston, Westside in San Antonio, and West Oakland, Calif. create,” write urban policy scholars Joan Fitzgerald at Northeastern University and Julian Eggman at Tufts University.
As Fitzgerald and Eggman see it, simply removing barrier highways will not be enough to transform disadvantaged neighborhoods. But eliminating what they call “racist infrastructure” could catalyze other investments in housing, transportation and green spaces that would make these communities healthier and more prosperous.
Read more: Removing urban highways could improve neighborhoods affected by decades of racist policies
Editor’s Note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation Archives.