$1.2 trillion infrastructure bill sets the stage for major expansion in public works construction

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In a late evening session on Nov. 5, the House of Representatives broke the logjam on the $1.2 billion infrastructure bill, setting the stage for massive federal investment in construction projects across the country.

The American Public Works Association (AWPA) said in a statement that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act adds $559 billion to the federal government’s average annual investment of $650 billion and addresses the association’s public policy priorities for surface transportation reauthorization, water resiliency, and emergency management, including:

  • Reauthorizing the primary federal aid highway programs increases overall spending $273.2 billion over five years,
  • Codifying elements of the “one federal decision” policy to require agencies to coordinate reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects and set a goal for completing environmental reviews within two years,
  • $11 billion for road safety,
  • $7.3 billion for the new Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) program to make infrastructure more resilient to storms and natural disasters,
  • $55 billion towards water and wastewater infrastructure,
  • $5 billion to the Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Drinking Water grant program to deal with emerging contaminants,
  • $1 billion in grant program (FY2022 through FY2025) to help states, tribal or multistate governments address cybersecurity threats, and
  • $3.5 billion for the National Flood Insurance Fund for flood mitigation assistance.

“Congress’ long-awaited approval of IIJA tonight is welcomed and applauded across the country by public works professionals,” said APWA President Stan Brown. “From 2003 to 2017, federal infrastructure spending dropped more than 20 percent and negatively affected those who rely on our highways, roads, bridges, transit, and water and wastewater systems.”

“IIJA promises to upgrade all areas of this country’s infrastructure,” said APWA CEO Scott Grayson. “From roads and bridges to better protecting communities against natural disasters to modernizing our water infrastructure network, this long-awaited legislation will make significant upgrades in people’s lives.

“APWA believes the country needs consistent, substantial, and long-term investment in our public works infrastructure, and the commitment of $550 billion in new federal spending over 5 years represents a generational improvement that still recognizes the need for local decision making,” Grayson said.

Not surprisingly, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America is enthusiastic about the legislation, expected to be signed into law shortly by president Joseph Biden, who helped pull enough votes from the seriously divided Democratic party caucus to achieve the win — with help from 13 Republicans.

“The reason the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in the House today is because a majority of Representatives understand that this measure will provide significant, tangible improvements to their lives of the constituents and the success of their local employers,” AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said in a statement.

That is because the bill provides the kind of funding needed to modernize the country’s aging and overburdened infrastructure. The legislation also maintains the policy of One Federal Decision, cutting the amount of time needed for federal reviews of infrastructure projects.

“Because of today’s vote, state and local officials will be able to invest in a more efficient supply chain network. They will also be able to improve roads and bridges to make them safer and more reliable. Metro areas will be able to better maintain and expand transit systems. And water authorities will be able to further safeguard the quality of local drinking water, among other improvements funded by this bill. The measure also provides needed investments to make infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.

“Once the President signs this bill into law, our members are ready to begin the hard, but necessary, work of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. They will also begin the work of building rewarding careers for a generation of new construction professionals because of this measure. Ultimately, these new infrastructure investments will provide a needed boost for the construction industry while making our economy more efficient.”

“At the same time, we urge members of the Senate and the Biden administration to reject the more partisan, and potentially damaging so-called social infrastructure bill. This measure will significantly expand the role of the federal government in many aspects of the economy. The last thing the economy needs now are the kind of self-inflicted wounds that are the hallmark of this social infrastructure measure.”

The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), which advocates for non-union contractors, expressed cautious approval of the legislation.

“Passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill creates an opportunity to effectively modernize our nation’s most critical infrastructure, and ABC and our members stand ready to do the important work to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century,” said Michael Bellaman, ABC president and CEO. “However, ABC remains wary of some of the bill’s exclusionary provisions and statements from the Biden administration that could restrict the eligibility of America’s workers to compete for and participate in these construction projects.

“In addition, while the House voted to move forward with consideration of their partisan, reckless tax and spending bill, which was cobbled together in the middle of the night, we urge those in Congress who have expressed valid concerns about the bill’s impact on the economy and ongoing inflation throughout the country to prevent any further votes on this bill and pursue an alternate legislative approach that supports commonsense proposals, benefits our economy and creates jobs throughout the country.”

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