The Infrastructure Bill: 5 Key Takeaways
After months of haggling, the House of Representatives on Friday night passed a federal mayor infrastructure bill that promises to inject $ 1.2 trillion over the next five years to support trains, planes, cars, utility networks, and energy systems. The legislation was removed from its original and more ambitious form, when it cost $ 2.3 trillion. But it’s still big, said Adie Tomer, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “This bill is very big in terms of top line numbers, it’s very big in breadth, and it has a clearer sense of purpose than we usually see in infrastructure fees,” he said. The bill is full of schemes and plans that, since it runs 2,700 pages, are still able to fly under the radar. For those who don’t have a few free hours to turn it around, here’s a cheat sheet — some important provisions that can change the way Americans live.
Extra Money for Walkers, Cyclists, and Scooter-ers
For the past half century, the federal government has poured money into roads and bridges that support cars and trucks. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (that’s its formal name) increases investment in “active transportation” by sending $ 1.44 billion annually to community projects aimed at pedestrians, cyclists, and others who use and non-motorized transportation. That’s 70 percent more money than the same program earned in the last big bill. The money could go to maintain or build bike lanes, sidewalks, and trails. Another $ 200 million program will help connect different community channels to finally create a national network allowing anyone to walk without a car. The funding could, for example, go to a long-floating vision called Circuit, which is now a 100-mile trail network between Philadelphia and southern New Jersey but could eventually arrive. at 800 miles. But Congress must appoint the money each year to budget fees. “This is a remarkable milestone, as far as we know,” said Kevin Mills, vice president of public policy at Rails to Trails Conservancy, an advocacy group.
Funding for “Recording” for Transit
The bill includes $ 89.9 billion in funding for public travel, including $ 39 billion to modernize systems, instead of building new ones. The White House hyped it as “the largest federal public transit investment in history.” Transit agencies can use the help, as their workers and passengers continue to suffer pandemic-related downturns, and maintenance backlogs are growing. In the Washington, DC Metro, lax maintenance is reported to be the cause of a derailment and subsequent system-wide upheaval which takes 40 percent of its metals out of service. Proponents aren’t sure this is enough. After inflation, “the‘ record level of investment ’may be the status quo, or even lower than what it should be,” said Benito Pérez, policy director at Transportation For America, a progressive advocacy group. Approximately 80 percent of the bill’s money will go to highway-focused funds, he pointed out. That has “implications for the climate, implications for safety, implications for providing meaningful access to all users,” he said.
The legislation mandates $ 65 billion for internet connectivity and access, a painful point especially seen when many American families turn to the internet for work and school. during the pandemic. A large chunk of that, $ 42.45 billion, will be allocated to grants to states, which will use the funds to collect data on broadband needs, make plans to address them, and pay telecom companies to increase access. Another piece, $ 14.2 billion, will provide $ 30 monthly vouchers for internet service to low -income Americans, replacing a $ 50 a month voucher program available to small people. “This is the first comprehensive investment in America’s broadband needs,” said Tomer, a researcher at the Brookings Institution. “I think that’s an indisputable part of its legacy.”
Strengthening the Nation Against Climate Change
Another piece of legislation, the hotly debated “Build Back Better” plan still underway in Congress, would have been the Biden administration’s big push against climate change. But the infrastructure bill has enough money on climate stability to make it the largest piece of legislation that has focused on the country’s climate to date. It has dedicated $ 154 billion to climate programs, according to the Brookings Institution tally. There is a new program written clearly to be done strong infrastructure—Roads, subways, and bridges that can withstand the extreme heat, cold, and storms of a changing climate. There is $ 5 billion for electric school buses and $ 7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging for infrastructure, which the White House said would help fund 500,000 public charging stations in electric vehicles by 2030. There is $ 65 billion to repair and improve electric grid. Climate activists say the effort is not enough, especially after the Build Back Better bill was also blocked. But this is a start.
A Shift in Funding Philosophy
This is a bad one, but important. In general, federal infrastructure funding is sent to states and local governments through “formulas,” based on factors such as population and gas tax revenue. But about $ 120 billion of the $ 550 billion of new federal spending on this bill will be distributed through competition programs. That gives Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other officials more flexibility in choosing which projects will get money and Congress more oversight power. Experts hope the change will lead to a uptick in ambitious mega projects, such as the Hoover Dam, which requires money and interstate cooperation. The upside could be a lot of experimentation and innovation, according to Tomer. “It’s really going to push states and localities to bring their very best ideas.”
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