On the highway over the Teton Pass in Wyoming, avalanches have been threatened by motorists since the 1960s. In Washington and Oregon, drivers live with the daily understanding that in the event of a major earthquake, the bridge between Vancouver and Portland is likely to collapse. In California, residents are increasingly at the mercy of uncontrolled wildfires and mega-passages, as well as their stratospheric costs.
America’s to-do list has grown over the years, long before President Joe Biden and a bipartisan committee in Congress agreed this year to make a historic renewal of the nation’s aging infrastructure. On Friday, the move, which had been delayed for months amid negotiations for other spending of about $ 2 trillion, was finally passed.
“This is a game changer,” said Mark Polonkartz, executive director of Erie County in New York. “Right off the bat, I have somewhere around $ 150 million for capital projects that we could move, from moving our wastewater treatment system in the 20th century to small bridges, some of which are 100 years old.”
Mark Weitenbeck, treasurer of the Wisconsin Railroad Passengers Association and retired from suburban Milwaukee, noted a potential rail expansion: “While we are doing nothing, the Chinese are building 20,000 miles of high-speed rail.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement, “President Biden understands the critical need to build a climate resilient future.” He added that the new funding “will strengthen our clean transport infrastructure, help mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change, and accelerate new projects that will create thousands of jobs.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a minority leader from California, called on Republicans to oppose the bill, and Los Angeles Rep. Steve Scalise, a minority representative, warned that spending “will cause more inflation.” But 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives crossed the party line to help pass the measure.
And Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, praised Congress “for stepping back from partisan divisions to pass legislation that works for the American people.”
With nearly $ 600 billion in new federal aid to improve highways, bridges, dams, public transportation, railways, ports, airports, water quality and broadband over 10 years, this law is a unique opportunity to rebuild society in the country. the system works. And it presents a rare opportunity for states that have had to balance huge short-term delays in repairs and upgrades with larger long-term projects and needs for decades.
Federal spending, while less generous than Biden originally suggested, is still huge by any measure. Transport aid alone is the largest federal investment in transit history and the largest federal investment in passenger rail since Amtrak was founded in 1971, according to the White House.
About $ 110 billion will be spent on roads, bridges and other major ground transportation projects. An additional $ 66 billion will go to rail passenger and freight services, including enough money to close Amtrak’s maintenance gap. An additional $ 39 billion will go towards modernizing public transport, and an additional $ 11 billion will go towards transport safety, including programs to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths.
$ 65 billion will be allocated to broadband systems, as well as investments in power grid reconstruction to repair power lines and use renewable energy sources. The $ 55 billion joint fund will expand access to clean drinking water. About $ 25 billion will go to airports and $ 17 billion to ports.
Government agencies will determine which projects will be funded, but some government priorities were spelled out in the bill during negotiations.
For example, several provisions benefit Alaska, where Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, was one of the core members of a bipartisan group of senators who helped draft the law. The bill includes $ 250 million for a pilot program to develop a low-emission electric ferry or ferry that will almost certainly reach her state with the most miles of sea lanes.
Another $ 1 billion program will build a ferry crossing to reach rural communities such as Alaska; the bill allows it to be operated and maintained at the expense of federal highways. And other parts of the bill will be paid for repairs of more than 140 bridges, as well as more than 300 miles of highway that stretches across the border of Alaska and into Canada.
West Virginia-based sensor Joe Manchin, Democrat, and Shelley Moore Capito, Republican, also helped draft legislation that includes a $ 2 billion agricultural subsidy program that is expected to channel funding towards the Appalachian highway system. The section of this system, Corridor H, intended to connect Interstate 79 in north-central West Virginia with Interstate 81 in Virginia, has been under construction for over half a century, but is now getting a boost. The bill also provides more than $ 11 billion for a program to clean up toxic leaks from abandoned coal mines, which is estimated to cost at least $ 2 billion in West Virginia alone.
However, this legislation will mainly be aimed at solving problems related to public works, which for a long time limited the political and financial capabilities of states to solve them. Experts predicted that this would change priorities across the country and accelerate important projects.
New Jersey, for example, could raise new funds to help build the proposed lock tunnel, reducing chronic congestion on the rail route that connects the state to New York. Nearly a decade after Hurricane Sandy flooded a tunnel into New York, leaving structural damage, progress has stalled amid estimated repair costs of up to $ 13 billion.
Along the Gulf Coast, Louisiana officials are seeking money to help speed up the long-studied passenger rail route between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. In the Pacific Northwest, where an interstate 5 bridge connecting Oregon and Washington across the Columbia River is at risk of collapse in a massive earthquake, spending could help bridge years of political division and pay for a new, more resilient structure with room for a bike. lanes and pedestrians.
In Michigan, the bill will contribute a record $ 1 billion to a decade-long program to restore and protect the Great Lakes, where drinking water and wildlife have been threatened by pollution. In Wyoming, where an avalanche threat closes Wyoming Highway 22 through the mountains every year, discouraging commercial traffic, this could help finance a tunnel across the Teton Pass.
The law also offers a vital pathway for states and cities struggling to limit greenhouse gas pollution in the face of escalating shocks from climate change. In the Northeast, funding of $ 7.5 billion for zero- and low-emission buses and ferries could help Connecticut and New Jersey electrify municipal bus fleets. The loan program in the bill will also help local governments in states such as Michigan create projects to reduce the risk and damage of severe floods and coastline erosion.
Other pieces of legislation will address longstanding justice and civil engineering issues arising from old motorway projects that have divided many cities, leveled homes and historic landmarks, and exacerbated car addiction and segregation. In Minnesota, he could push the proposed renovation of the I-94 corridor between St. Paul and Minneapolis, reuniting areas that were cut off from each other in the 1960s. And in Connecticut, it could stimulate projects to reunite sections of Hartford and East Hartford, which were separated by interstate highways more than 60 years ago.
However, few states are likely to feel the impact of the measure as widely as California, where 40 million people have come to rely on highways, aqueducts, sea walls, dams and other engineering structures to sustain their lifestyles.
Seared by a mega-drought and scorched by massive wildfires, the state has poured billions of dollars in recent years into water conservation, deforestation, firefighting and renewable energy initiatives. Government officials said federal money will amplify this push.
For example, the over $ 8 billion pot for Western water projects includes billions for water recycling and groundwater storage systems, which are critical to California’s environmental efforts. The increased funding in the bill will help modernize aging dams and canals and possibly finance desalination projects.
Disaster relief funds in this measure will help mitigate the risk and impact of wildfires and other natural disasters, for example by allowing the state to bury power lines in rural areas where sparks from old equipment have caused some of California’s most devastating hells. Federal funding will also be leveraged to bring the wages of federal firefighters in the wild on par with much higher paid state fire brigades, addressing the critical shortage of experienced brigades in the state, where most of the forestland is on federal lands.
The new federal money could also kickstart a high-speed rail line that California has been trying to build for a decade between its largest cities and rural Central Valley. In recent years, the priority has been simply to complete the electrified route between Merced and Bakersfield. But with additional funding, state officials say they could expand to the Los Angeles Bay and Basin area, linking one of the state’s most economically depressed regions to major cities and better-paying jobs.
However, one small piece of that measure was especially anticipated in California: a $ 7.5 billion initiative to create a nationwide electric vehicle charging network. While 40% of the country’s electric vehicles are sold in California, sales are still lagging in part because car buyers fear they won’t be able to easily recharge on long car trips. So far, even long-range electric vehicles like the Teslas are unable to make the 400-mile journey between San Francisco and Los Angeles without stopping for a fee.