A look at what the bipartisan infrastructure deal would do
By Madeleine Ngo
After weeks of debate and discussion, the White House and a bipartisan group of senators said earlier this week that they had reached agreement on an infrastructure bill.
The $1 trillion package is far smaller than the $2.3 trillion plan that President Joe Biden had originally proposed and would provide about $550 billion in new federal money for public transit, roads, bridges, water and other physical projects over the next five years, according to a White House fact sheet. That money would be cobbled together through a range of measures, including “repurposing” stimulus funds already approved by Congress, selling public spectrum and recouping federal unemployment funds from states that ended more generous pandemic benefits early.
Although Biden conceded that “neither side got everything they wanted,” he said the deal would create new union jobs and make significant investments in public transit.
“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver and do big things,” Biden said in a statement. “As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”
Lawmakers have yet to release legislative text of the bill, and although the Senate voted to advance it in an initial vote on Wednesday evening, it still faces several hurdles. But if enacted, the package would mark a significant step toward repairing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and preparing it for the 21st century.
Here is a look at the bipartisan group’s agreement for the final package.
— Funding for roads and bridges
The package provides $110 billion in new funding for roads, bridges and other major projects. The funds would be used to repair and rebuild with a “focus on climate change mitigation,” according to the White House.
That funding would only begin to chip away at some of the nation’s pressing infrastructure needs, transportation experts say. The most recent estimate by the American Society of Civil Engineers found that the nation’s roads and bridges have a $786 billion backlog of needed repairs.
Highway and pedestrian safety programs would receive $11 billion under the deal. Traffic deaths, which have increased during the pandemic, have taken a particular toll on people of color, according to a recent analysis from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Traffic fatalities among Black people jumped 23% in 2020 from the year before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In comparison, traffic fatalities among white people increased 4% during the same time period.
The deal also includes funding dedicated to “reconnecting communities” by removing freeways or other past infrastructure projects that ran through Black neighborhoods and other communities of color. Although Biden originally proposed investing $20 billion in the new program, the latest deal includes only $1 billion.
— Investments in public transit
Public buses, subways and trains would receive $39 billion in new funding, which would be used to repair aging infrastructure and modernize and expand transit service across the country.
While the amount of new funding for public transit was scaled back from a June proposal, which included $49 billion, the Biden administration said it would be the largest federal investment in public transit in history.
Yet the funds might not be enough to fully modernize the country’s public transit system. According to a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, there is a $176 billion backlog for transit investments.
— Big investments in rail and freight lines
The deal would inject $66 billion in rail to address Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, along with upgrading the high-traffic Northeast corridor from Washington to Boston (a route frequented by East Coast lawmakers). It would also expand rail service outside the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Biden frequently points to his connection to Amtrak, which began in the 1970s, when he would travel home from Washington to Delaware every night to care for his two sons while serving in the Senate. The new funding would be the largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak was created 50 years ago, according to the administration, and would come as the agency tries to significantly expand its service nationwide by 2035.
— Clean water initiatives
The package would invest $55 billion in clean drinking water, which would be enough to replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines. While Congress banned lead water pipes three decades ago, more than 10 million older ones remain, resulting in unsafe lead levels in cities and towns across the country.
— Beefing up electric vehicles
To address the effects of climate change, the deal would invest $7.5 billion in building out the nation’s network of electric vehicle charging stations, which could help entice more drivers to switch to such cars by getting rid of so-called charger deserts. The package would also expand America’s fleet of electric school buses by investing $2.5 billion in zero-emission buses.