This Is Where the States Want Billions in Infrastructure Funding Spent




 On the highway over the Teton Pass in Wyoming, avalanches have been threatening motorists since the 1960s. In Washington and Oregon, drivers live with the daily awareness that, in a major earthquake, the bridge between Vancouver and Portland will probably collapse. In California, residents are increasingly at the mercy of out-of-control wildfires and megadroughts — and their stratospheric costs.

America’s to-do list has been growing for years, since well before President Biden and a bipartisan committee in Congress agreed this year to a historic upgrade of the nation’s aging infrastructure. On Friday, the measure — held up for months amid negotiations over some $2 trillion in other spending — finally passed.

“This is a game changer,” said Mark Poloncarz, the county executive in New York’s Erie County. “Right off the bat, I have somewhere around $150 million in capital projects we could move, from bringing our wastewater treatment system into the 20th century to smaller bridges, some of which are 100 years old.”

Mark Weitenbeck, treasurer of the Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers and a retiree from suburban Milwaukee, celebrated the potential expansion of rail service: “While we have been doing nothing, the Chinese have been building 20,000 miles of high-speed rail line.”


Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said in a statement: “President Biden understands the critical need to build a climate-resilient future.” He added that the new funding will “bolster our clean transportation infrastructure, help mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change, and accelerate new projects that will create thousands of jobs.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, had urged Republicans to oppose the bill, and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the minority whip, warned that the spending “is going to induce more inflation.” But 13 House Republicans crossed party lines to help pass the measure.

And Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican and the chairman of the National Governors Association, commended Congress “for setting aside partisan differences to pass a bill that works for the American people.”

With nearly $600 billion in new federal aid to improve highways, bridges, dams, public transit, rail, ports, airports, water quality and broadband over 10 years, the legislation is a once-in-a-generation chance to overhaul the nation’s public works system. And it offers a rare opportunity for states that for decades have been forced to balance huge short-term backlogs of repairs and upgrades against larger, longer-term projects and needs.

The federal outlay, while less generous than President Biden initially proposed, is still immense by any measure. According to the White House, the transportation aid alone is the largest federal investment in transit history and the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak in 1971.

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