The expansive $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the Senate passed Tuesday — a 2,702-page bipartisan deal that is the product of months of negotiating and years of pent-up ambitions to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — would amount to the most substantial government expenditure on the ageing public works system since 2009. The bill — which passed 69-30, and goes next to the House — is also stuffed with pet projects and priorities that touch on nearly every facet of American life.
Here are some of the major provisions.
About $110 billion will go to roads, bridges and transportation programs
Much of the legislation is directed toward roads and bridges, devoting billions of dollars to address an expansive backlog of repairs across the country and shoring up the nation’s highways and other infrastructure to withstand the toll of climate change.
The bill also increases funding for programs intended to provide safe commutes for pedestrians, and creates a $350 million pilot program for projects that reduce collisions between vehicles and wildlife. And the legislation formally establishes a federal program intended to encourage children to walk or bike to school.
Transportation experts say the $110 billion is just a fraction of what is needed to address the nation’s unaddressed repair needs, with the latest estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers estimating a $786 billion backlog for roads and bridges alone.
The measure also includes $66 billion in new funding for rail to address Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, along with upgrading the high-traffic Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. For President Joe Biden, an Amtrak devotee who has taken an estimated 8,000 round trips on the line, it is a step toward fulfilling his promise to inject billions into rail.
For climate, a substantial investment that falls short of the administration’s goals
The measure includes billions of dollars to better prepare the country for the effects of global warming and the single largest federal investment in power transmission in history.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would get an additional $11.6 billion in construction funds for projects like flood control and river dredging. The Forest Service would get billions of dollars to remove flammable vegetation from the lands it manages, in an effort to make wildfires less damaging.
The bill would also include money for “next-generation water modeling activities” and flood mapping at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which would also receive funds to predict wildfires.
The legislation also includes $73 billion to modernize the nation’s electricity grid to allow it to carry renewable energy, $7.5 billion for clean buses and ferries and $7.5 billion to develop electric vehicle charging stations across the country.
The bill would provide $15 billion for removing lead service lines across the nation, short of the $45 billion Biden had called for and the $60 billion that water sector leaders say is needed to get the job done.
The legislation also includes more than $300 million to develop technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and $6 billion to support struggling nuclear reactors. It directs the secretary of Energy to conduct a study on job losses associated with Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.
New resources for underserved communities — but far fewer than the president wanted
The legislation creates a new $2 billion grant program to expand surface transportation projects in rural areas.
It would also increase support for tribal governments and Native American communities, creating an office within the Department of Transportation intended to respond to their needs. It would provide $216 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for climate resilience and adaptation for tribal nations, which have been disproportionately hurt by climate change. More than half of that money, $130 million, would go toward “community relocation” — helping some Native communities move away from vulnerable areas.
It would also help improve access to running water and other sanitation needs in tribal communities and Alaska Native villages.
A major investment in closing the digital divide
Senators have also included $65 billion meant to connect hard-to-reach rural communities to high-speed internet and help sign up low-income city dwellers who cannot afford it. Other legal changes seek to stoke competition and transparency among service providers that could help drive down prices.
Biden had initially proposed $100 billion toward closing the digital divide, but he agreed to lower the price to strike a compromise with Republicans.
Chris Cameron, Christopher Flavelle and Alan Rappeport c.2021 The New York Times Company