On Nov. 15, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The House passed the bill on Nov. 5 by a vote of 228-206. The measure cleared the Senate on Aug. 10 with a 69-30 vote.
This bill is the largest federal investment in the nation’s infrastructure since the 1950s Eisenhower Administration began building the Interstate highway system. Highways will receive the bulk of the $550 billion of new spending in the $1.2 trillion bill, sending $110 billion over the next five years for surface transportation projects. This bill also reauthorized the FAST Act, the nation’s surface transportation law, allowing more consistency in financing and planning highway projects, and enacted crucial permitting reforms to help speed the construction process. Underground utilities construction is a pre-cursor to all highway and bridge projects.
According to a report on CNBC.com, the act would make $550 billion available for transportation projects, the utility grid and broadband. That includes $110 billion for roads, bridges and other projects, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, and $39 billion for public transit, according to the report.
The New York Post reported that the bill provides $8 billion for the Gateway Project in New York, which includes a new tunnel spanning the Hudson River. In all, the bill provides $66 billion in funding for Amtrak, including $30 billion for Northeast Corridor projects, the Post reported. Another project that has been awaiting funding is the B&P Tunnel Replacement Plan in Baltimore, a $4 billion project to replace a 148-year-old tunnel along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
Additionally, the bill provides more than $50 billion for clean water projects, EPA reported. IIJA allocates $15 billion over five years to both the Drinking Water State Resource Fund (SRF) and Clean Water SRF, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those numbers mean there will be about $1 billion more per year for each fund than what Congress has allocated in past fiscal year appropriations.
These two federal funds, administered by the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, help communities build their water and sewer systems. These systems include miles of underground pipes, their distribution and treatment plants, water supply sources, storage tanks, and other projects used to protect public health. Lead service pipe replacement will also be funded by the IIJA, which sends $15 billion to the states to replace outdated pipes leading to homes and businesses.
According to the National Utility Contractors Association, underground contractors could also benefit from the more than $40 billion in the bill set aside to install modern broadband infrastructure, as well as the $73 billion allocated for national electric grid resiliency, including $7 billion to build new electric vehicle charging stations, most of which require some subsurface construction. $21 billion was allocated to environmental remediation projects, such as improved storm water drainage systems. And $1 billion will be directed toward replacement of corroding or obsolete municipal gas distribution pipes and hardware.
While it remains to be seen how the passage of the bill will impact spending, it is a positive development after years of simply talking about infrastructure reinvestment.
Jim Rush, Editor/Publisher, TBM