The White House and group of bipartisan senators announced that they had finally reached a deal with regards to an infrastructure package.
Although the bill is smaller than what President Biden had initially put out as part of his $2.3 trillion spending plan, the $1 trillion bill will contain nearly $550 billion in new spending that will go towards public transportation, roads, bridges, and other key pieces of infrastructure. These projects will be provided for over the next five years. The funds for the bill were obtained in a number of ways, such as using left over stimulus money, selling public spectrum, and reining in left over unemployment benefit funds from states.
Despite the idea that “neither side got everything they wanted,” President Biden views the deal as a success for the country, which will include creating new jobs and investing into public transportation.
Biden promoted how important this bill was for bipartisanship, saying that “This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver and do big things.” Moreover, Biden added that “As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”
Even with this deal in place, the bill faces a number of challenges before passage. Despite the Senate advancing the legislation late Wednesday, lawmakers have not yet had the opportunity to read what is inside the bill. Nonetheless, the legislation would represent a milestone that goes towards revamping the country’s infrastructure and looking towards the future.
A number of agreements were agreed to in the final package, including in the following areas.
Money for Roads and Bridges
$110 billion in new money will go towards major infrastructure projects that include roads and bridges. The focus will not only be on repairing these pieces of infrastructure, but also to rebuild with a “focus on climate change mitigation,” per White House officials.
However, experts say that these funds will only make a dent in addressing the most urgent areas of infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that $786 billion would be needed to help fix roads and bridges that have long needed repairs.
The bill would also see $11 billion go towards highway and pedestrian safety programs. Traffic deaths increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on people of color. While traffic fatalities increased by 4% for white people from 2019 to 2020, they increased by 23% for Black people.
In addition, the legislation would include $1 billion for removing freeways and other pieces of infrastructure that run through communities of color. President Biden initially sought to invest $20 billion in this area
Public Transportation Investments
$39 billion will go towards repairing, updating, and extending public transportation throughout the country, including that pertaining to public buses, subways and trains. Even though the White House had originally called for $49 billion, it would still be the largest public transportation investment that the federal government has ever made.
Even so, the American Society of Civil Engineers again pointed out that this would make a small impact on the $176 billion necessary to complete transportation updates that have long been needed.
Rail and Freight Lines Investments
$66 billion would go towards Amtrack’s maintenance backlog, as well as repairing and updating the high-traffic Northeast corridor that goes from Boston to Washington. In addition, rail services would be expanded outside of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic areas.
These investments would serve as the largest investment in passenger rails since Amtrack’s creation. President Biden has a personal connection to the rail transport company, as he previously took the train home from Washington to Delaware during his time in the Senate.
Initiatives for Clean Water
$55 billion would go towards investing in clean drinking water. The funds would be sufficient for replacing lead pipes and services lines that have been in long need of attention. Even though lead pipes were banned over 30 years ago, 10 million remain, leading to dangerous water availability that contains high levels of lead.
Electric Vehicle Investments
$7.5 billion would go towards expanding the number of electric vehicle charging stations. $2.5 billion would go towards investments that increase the number of electric school buses that produce zero emissions.
Paying for the Investments
Paying for these investments have been a long point of debate between Democrats and Republicans, especially on the topic of raising taxes and giving the IRS money to collect taxes. Lawmakers leading the negotiations have instead chosen to repurpose funds that were previously appropriated, as well as focusing on accounting changes. For some of these infrastructure investments, the projects could very well pay for themselves.
The $205 billion that was previously passed in pandemic stimulus funds will now serve as the largest funding source. Republican lawmakers have requested that the Treasury Department recant $350 billion in stimulus funds approved in March that were meant for helping states manage pandemic related issues.
$53 billion will also come from states that chose to end federal unemployment benefits for their residents early. Funds would go back to the Treasury Department. $28 billion will also be brought in from reviews on cryptocurrencies. A 33% expected return from these infrastructure package would bring in another $56 billion.