The Infrastructure Law sets the stage for a massive investment in the country’s infrastructure across the decade ahead. Everyone agrees the legislation will help rebuild or at least fortify the country’s rails, roads, and bridges to a certain extent. The law will also expand access to high-speed internet and mitigate the impact of the ongoing climate crisis.
However, there is plenty of debate as to the extent that the historic legislation will shape the future of the nation as well as that of private companies and civilians. Here’s our quick look at the most important takeaways from the bipartisan infrastructure law.
1. Public Transit Will Receive a Much-Needed Boost
The bipartisan infrastructure law contains nearly $90 billion of public funding for public transit. Nearly $40 billion of the money will be used to modernize systems, meaning most of the infrastructure already in place for public transportation will merely be improved as opposed to replaced.
The funding for transit agencies throughout the country will prove essential to advancing the greater good of the populace as the United States has lagged behind competing industrial nations in the context of public transportation efficiency. The infusion of cash will bolster that efficiency and also boost public transportation safety, helping to prevent derailments such as those that have made riding the beltway Metro frustrating and stressful.
2. A Focus on Competition
The language of the new infrastructure law details how funding is transmitted to local and state governments through specialized formulas. These mathematical calculations factor in everything from gas-tax revenue to population and more. Slightly more than $120 billion of the $550 billion of the federal spending provided in the bill will be transmitted through a competitive system.
The structuring of the funds distribution in such a manner empowers Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other power brokers in the beltway to pick and choose the projects that receive the most funding. This unique approach also provides Congress with that much more oversight. The altered approach to funding will likely spur the green light for financing improvements in sizable projects that span several states. State and local governments that frame their requests for funding in the most convincing and artful manner will prove that much more likely to receive financing.
3. Non-Drivers Emerge as Winners
Those who ride a bicycle, walk or use a scooter are quite happy with the new infrastructure bill as it provides $1.44 billion for community projects centered on the use of non-motorized methods of transport. Such “active transportation” methods will receive additional funding in the form of money for improving or building bike lanes, trails, sidewalks and more.
4. The Environment Also Wins
Though the infrastructure law provides a considerable amount of funding for highway expansion, construction and maintenance, it also prioritizes offsetting climate change. The bill provides climate resiliency funding that ultimately makes it the nation’s largest-ever legislation for climate funding. Nearly $155 billion is included for climate programs that build resilient infrastructure, electric buses, electric vehicle charging stations and the overarching electric grid.
5. Broadband Internet Expansion
It might not be long until Americans have access to broadband internet regardless of their location on the map. More than $60 billion within the infrastructure bill will be invested in web connectivity and access. This funding has the potential to prove quite important as that many more students and employees turn to the internet at home for learning and working.
It is particularly interesting to note that about $42 billion of the funding will be transmitted in the form of grants to states for developing and implementing a broadband expansion. About $14 billion of the money will be provided to low-income individuals and families in the form of $30 monthly vouchers to offset the cost of high-speed internet.
6. Strengthening the Nation’s Weakened Supply Chains
The infrastructure bill provides funding to upgrade the country’s ports and airports in an effort to bolster compromised supply chains. The hope is that this funding will minimize or even eliminate disruptions that have occurred across the previous two years. Those disruptions have led to inflation across the board.
7. Rural Transportation Receives a Boost
More than a billion dollars will fund highway expansion and maintenance in rural Appalachia through the Appalachian Development Highway System or ADHS for short. The hope is that this funding expedites the completion of corridors spanning nearly a dozen states throughout the visually striking Appalachian region. However, only $246 million of the billion dollars allotted for the project will be available to those states in 2022.
8. More Americans Will Ride the Rails
The bipartisan infrastructure law sets the stage for the country’s largest financial infusion into passenger rail service since Amtrak was created more than half a century ago. This investment is significant as the country’s passenger rail has trailed that of the rest of the developed world in terms of space covered, efficiency and reliability. As an example, China’s high-speed rail system covers more than 20,000 miles.
Nearly $70 billion of funding will be used for rail line improvements that addresses the ever-expanding Amtrak maintenance projects. The funding will also modernize the rail along the Northeast Corridor and extend rail service well beyond the mid-Atlantic and northeast states, providing highly efficiently train service to Americans regardless of their position on the map.
9. Equitable Impacts Are Not a Given
Historically, infrastructures investments have had bias and discrimination baked in and while the current infrastructure package has the promise of equitable outcomes for disinvested communities, it is not a given. Take a close look at the language of the bill and you will find the federal spending plan does not equally distribute benefits across socioeconomic classes. For instance, the funding noted above dedicated to enhancing the nation’s highway system does not help low-income individuals living in urban environments.
Another potential bright spot in the legislation will extend broadband internet to rural areas and provide financial assistance to low-income households to pipe high-speed internet into the home, however, the vast majority of those funds will be distributed at the discretion of states with little oversight to ensure disinvested communities receive their fair share. Add in the fact that the bill fails to provide sufficient funding for infrastructure system construction or renewal and there is even more reason to be concerned about its potential net negative impact on our country’s ever-increasing socioeconomic stratification.
10. Rebuilding the Nation’s Infrastructure Will Take Time
The funding detailed above will not be infused right away. Rather, the funds will be doled out across the ensuing half-decade and beyond. It might take several months or even years for work on the top projects in the queue to commence. The delay in funding stings all the more considering it took the current administration several attempts to pass the infrastructure bill into law.