Public Policy Alert: $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Enacted

For years, lawmakers have been talking about the need to invest in the country’s infrastructure but have been unable to put together a bill that would pass Congress and be signed by the president. Highways, transit, railroads, pipelines, and various research and safety programs have needed repairs and modernization for years. There’s good news! It turns out that “infrastructure week”—a term that had become a running joke in Washington, DC—finally happened.
Public Policy Alert: $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Enacted; Much Work Ahead for SWE Members -

After months of negotiations, President Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act at the White House in November. The legislation will provide $1.2 trillion in federal spending over the next five years. During the debate of the bill, SWE weighed in with lawmakers hoping to see a package that would include significant investments in workforce development programs. Those programs were not funded, but engineers nationwide will be put to work on those that were.

So. What’s in the bill? 

  • There’s $110 billion for roads, bridges, and other major projects.
  • Public transit investments in the bill total $39 billion to modernize transit and improve accessibility.
  • Amtrak would see $66 billion for maintenance, to upgrade tracks in the Northeast Corridor and bring rail service — including high-speed rail — to other areas of the country.
  • $73 billion would go to power grid upgrades, including building thousands of miles of new transmission lines for renewable energy and research for new technologies like nuclear reactors and carbon capture.
  • Lawmakers are investing $7.5 billion in building a nationwide network of charging stations for electric vehicles to help accelerate the adoption of non-fossil fuel cars.
  • There’s $5 billion for new school buses, although the program would allow half of that to go toward buses that run on natural gas or diesel. The plan also includes $2.5 billion for ferries.
  • Airport repairs and efforts to reduce congestion and emissions would see $25 billion. That includes encouraging the use of electric and other low-carbon technologies. It would also invest $17 billion in port infrastructure.
  • There is $50 billion in the bill to help communities fight cyber-attacks and the effects of climate change. The funds include money to protect against droughts and floods.
  • Efforts to improve drinking water would be funded at $55 billion, including dedicated funding to replace lead pipes and dangerous chemicals.
  • Infrastructure spending includes broadband, and $65 billion would be invested in high-speed internet to make sure that every household can access reliable broadband service.
  • The bill spends $21 billion on environmental remediation to address past pollution that harms public health.
  • $11 billion would support improved transportation safety, including programs to reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.

Clearly, engineers will have much to do with the successful implementation of this bill and completing the important projects it will fund. The agencies overseeing the investments want the funds to be made available to states and localities as soon as possible. The work will begin soon, and SWE members will certainly be a part of the workforce that completes it.

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