Unpacking the Infrastructure Bill

Illustration by Julia Jones

Photograph by Diana Spencer

Jhe Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), formerly known as the INVEST in America Act and more commonly, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021.

The $1.2 trillion bill addresses, among other things, federal aid programs for highways, public transit, research and rail programs. In addition to these programs, about $550 billion in new spending will be devoted to infrastructure development over the next decade.

While supporters of the bill argue that these changes will be funded by new revenue and reallocated, unspent funds, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the legislation will cost $256 billion net over ten years.

What’s inside ?

According to the fact sheet released by the White House briefing room, these new expenses include:

$110 billion for the repair of roads, bridges and other major projects. The bill also includes the Safe Streets and Roads for All program to support projects aimed at reducing road deaths.

$89.9 billion in guaranteed funding for public transit programs over the next five years. This includes $39 billion in new investments to modernize US public transit infrastructure.

$66 billion to modernize and maintain the nation’s rail systems.

More than $65 billion for investments in clean energy transmission and increasing the resilience of the U.S. electric grid. This money will also fund programs to develop and deploy new clean energy technologies.

$65 billion to expand broadband service across the country to ensure that every American has access to reliable internet, especially in rural communities.

$55 billion to expand access to safe drinking water, including efforts to eliminate lead service lines and efforts to improve water infrastructure in tribal nations and disadvantaged communities.

Over $50 billion to protect US infrastructure from climate change and cyberattacks. This includes funds to protect US infrastructure and funds for cybersecurity development.

$21 billion to clean up Superfund sites and brownfields, land that has been contaminated with pollutants, toxic waste and other environmental contaminants.

$17 billion in port infrastructure and an additional $25 billion for airports to address maintenance backlogs and reduce emissions through the adoption of low-carbon technologies.

$7.5 billion to build a national network of electric vehicle chargers along highway corridors and within communities. This money will contribute to the bill’s stated goal of accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.

The White House has also released state-by-state breakdowns of where the money is going. Although the exact numbers are subject to change based on updated data for each fiscal year, New York is currently on the verge of receiving billions of dollars in funding.

Infrastructural concerns

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is the largest long-term U.S. infrastructure investment bill in nearly a century, and data indicates it has been a long time coming.

The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) is the nation’s oldest national civil engineering organization. The organization publishes a comprehensive assessment of America’s infrastructure every four years, grading it on an A to F scale.

According to the ASCE, U.S. infrastructure has struggled to get out of Ds — denoting infrastructure that is significantly below standard and exhibiting significant deterioration — since the report’s inception in 1998.

2021 was a breakthrough year as, for the first time in two decades, America’s infrastructure scored above a D. According to the report’s executive summary, America has made incremental progress toward restoring the nation’s infrastructure. , but there is still a lot of work to do.

Aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways and ports all scored higher in 2021 than four years ago, while only one category – bridges – declined.

Amanda Bao is an associate professor and program director in RIT’s Civil Engineering Technology program. Prior to working at RIT, she worked as a structural engineer and has been involved in engineering education research since 2011.

“Current design code requires a typical bridge to last 75 years,” Bao explained. “We have a lot of bridges that were built a hundred years ago, so [our infrastructure is] already pushed to its limit.

“We have a lot of bridges that were built a hundred years ago, so [our infrastructure is] already pushed to its limit.

Coastal states like New York have a particularly tough time with infrastructure, especially in the winter. Salt water and salty roads accelerate corrosion, which can cause infrastructure to rust and deteriorate faster.

There are ways to design around these flaws, and a new infrastructure package could lead to the adoption of these new technologies.

Composite materials might resist corrosion better than conventional steel, but the new material hasn’t entirely surpassed traditional construction methods. Recycled materials are also making their way into civil engineering, with materials like frosted glass being used to replace sand in concrete.

Environmental concerns

Billions of dollars in the infrastructure bill have been earmarked to strengthen American communities against climate change. The Great Lakes region is an excellent example of the consequences of these changing conditions.

Ann Howard is a professor in the RIT Department of Science, Technology and Society at the College of Liberal Arts.

“Warmer winters and less winter precipitation mean that the levels of the Great Lakes themselves will fluctuate more,” Howard said. “There is also the problem of storms and storm surges, especially on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

Towns and villages bordering the Great Lakes region expect heavy expenditures to mitigate the impacts of environmental change. According to the Associated Press, officials estimate the estimated cost will approach $2 billion.

“There are more than 30 million people who depend on the waters of the Great Lakes. This means that the water must be clean and must be available in the quantities needed by the population,” explained Howard.

“There are more than 30 million people who depend on the waters of the Great Lakes. This means that the water must be clean and must be available in the quantities necessary for the subsistence of the population.

A large amount of IIJA money is being invested in climate change mitigation and strengthening water supplies, but only time will tell what the impact of these expenditures will be.

Most of the funding goes directly to the states, so localities will have to rely on their relationships with state governments to get that money where it’s needed most.

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