Five things to know about the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the U.S. Senate in early August could give a solid boost to the nation’s recovering economy, while addressing sorely needed road, bridge and other infrastructure needs.
Before President Biden can sign it into law, however, the bill — which includes $550 billion in new federal investments over five years — must first be approved by the House of Representatives. That could happen early this fall.
Presuming it does, the historic legislation’s impact won’t be immediate. Unlike the federal COVID-19 relief packages that infused trillions of dollars into the economy since Spring 2020, it could take up to six months for infrastructure funding to begin reaching the states and communities where projects are being planned.
It is expected to create jobs and to be a catalyst for additional growth. Consider for example, projects that add traffic lanes to busy roads or that bring internet access to rural communities. Both can address current needs, while also helping to attract new residents and spur business or residential development.
Here are five other things to know about the legislation:
1. The nation’s roads and bridges will receive 20% of the overall investment.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says that 43% of the nation’s roads are in mediocre or poor shape, earning the road system a solid D on its 2021 Report Card. The same group deemed 46,000 — or 7.5% —of the nation’s bridges structurally deficient. The $110 billion earmarked for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects in the new legislation can begin to change that. In addition to repairs and expansion, some funds will be targeted to making roads safer. For example, $11 billion is allocated to adding bike lanes and other improvements that help reduce accidents and fatalities involving cyclists and pedestrians.
2. Public transportation will also get a boost.
The legislation provides a record $39 billion for public transit, including funds to address a multibillion-dollar backlog of repair and replacement projects. Thousands of school buses are expected to be replaced with zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs). A nationwide network of EV charging stations is also slated to be installed. Funds would be used to repair or replace 200 transit stations, 5,000 rail cars, and thousands of miles of track, signals and power systems that have reached the end of their service life. Another $66 billion is expected to fund passenger and freight rail improvements. That is good news to Amtrak, which would likely be able to eliminate its sizeable maintenance backlog.
3. Rural and low-income areas will receive high-speed internet.
Just as the federal government invested in bringing electricity to rural America nearly 100 years ago, today’s legislation includes $65 billion to bring high-speed internet to rural and low-income communities where more than 30 million Americans cannot easily go online to connect to work, school and healthcare. Companies that receive federal funding to bring the internet to these areas will also be required to provide an affordable plan to enable more low-income households to gain internet access.
4. The nation’s water systems and power grid will become more resilient.
The $65 billion allocated to rebuild the electric grid won’t solve all the nation’s energy problems, but it will make it possible to build thousands of miles of new power lines and expand wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. An additional $55 billion will fund upgrades to the nation’s water infrastructure. That includes replacing lead water lines, so all communities have access to clean drinking water. A similar amount will go to projects that protect water and wastewater infrastructure from drought, floods and cyberattacks, helping to create a more resilient system that addresses 21st century climate and security concerns.
5. Airports, ports and waterways will become more competitive.
According to AirHelp’s Global Airport Ranking, not a single U.S. airport is currently ranked among the world’s top 35 airports. The nation’s ports and waterways lag behind other nations as well. Investments totalling $42 billion for airport and port projects can begin to reverse these trends. In addition to addressing repair and maintenance needs, projects will be designed to remove bottlenecks, expedite shipping, improve sustainability and support other efforts that boost U.S. competitiveness.
That’s not all. Other projects will aid in the environmental clean-up of contaminated sites, protect against drought and floods, and explore new clean and renewable forms of energy. It will not be enough to fill the $2.59 trillion investment gap that the ASCE says is needed for the nation’s infrastructure to earn a solid B, but it’s a start.
There are other kinds of social service infrastructure this legislation won’t fund, including the modernization of the nation’s aging Veterans Administration hospitals and expanding access to long-term care services, among other needs. Those and other issues are expected to be included in a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that the Congress will also be taking up this fall.