President Joe Biden on Monday signed the five-year bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in a White House ceremony that included U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who was lead negotiator for his party in the senate.
“Things are going to turn around in a big way. For example, because of this law, next year will be the first year in 20 years American infrastructure investment will grow faster than China’s,” Biden said.
The law funds roads and bridges; sewer and water systems, including removal of lead drinking water lines; public transit; airports; ports; expanded broadband internet access; an electric vehicle charger network; electric grid improvements; solar, wind and other clean energy technology; weatherization programs; pollution mitigation; cyberattack protection; wildfire protection and making infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather.
It includes $550 billion in new spending, about half of which will go to transportation-related projects, according to an analysis by the National Association of Regional Councils, which represents regional planning organizations.
The bill does not increase the federal fuel tax, which is a key source of existing federal transportation revenue. The main new funding sources in the law are: repurposed COVID-19 relief funds, delaying a Medicare rebate to pharmacy benefit managers and insurers, profits from auctioning airwave spectrum, new cryptocurrency reporting requirements, extending or reinstating various fees, and the estimated financial impact of policy changes.
It’s too early to know how much money will come to the Dayton region, local officials said. But Ohio road and bridge projects will get nearly $9.7 billion, and can compete for additional funding under a new bridge replacement and repair program spearheaded by Portman and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
“This increase in infrastructure investment has been drastically needed for a long time. It will enable Montgomery County to continue improvements to local bridges and roads,” Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner said. “I also applaud President Biden and the leaders on both sides of the aisle for all of their efforts in getting this done.”
The other big winners in Ohio are water infrastructure projects, which will get $1.4 billion, and public transit, which will receive $1.2 billion, according to a White House fact sheet for Ohio.
“I’m hoping the extra funding will fund our infrastructure rebuild for the electric trolleys,” said Bob Ruzinsky, CEO of the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority. “That’s like a $75 million project over the next 10 years, with almost $60 million of that over the next five years.”
In Ohio, expanding access to broadband internet will get a minimum of $100 million, airport infrastructure for the state is in line for $253 million and $140 million is set to build an electric vehicle charger network, according to the White House.
“This is a very good thing in every respect,” said Steve Stanley, executive director of the Montgomery County Transportation Improvement District. “Private economic development directly depends on public infrastructure investment. The two go hand in hand. It is highly needed and certainly appropriate.”
The country’s competitors have been much more aggressive in investing in infrastructure than the U.S., he said.
“To have the federal government step forward and really signal the recognition of the need to invest in public infrastructure is really necessary and will help keep us competitive in the world market,” Stanley said.
How did local lawmakers vote?
All Senate Democrats and 19 Republicans, including Portman, voted for the bill. All but six House Democrats voted for the bill and all but 13 House Republicans voted against it. The Dayton region’s delegation — U.S. Reps. Mike Turner, R-Dayton; Warren Davidson, R-Troy; Jim Jordan, R-Urbana; and Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati — all voted against it.
“I’ve long favored a narrowly tailored infrastructure package to upgrade our nation’s roads, bridges and ports. However, I could not support this pork-laden bill, especially when Democrats have been so transparent that it is simply a means of delivering their next bad idea,” Davidson said.
Davidson is referring to the Democrats’ proposed Build Back Better Act, a separate $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate change bill that Davidson called an “evil act.”
“There’s no question that we need to significantly invest in repairing and rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” Chabot said, adding that he voted against money for infrastructure because he opposes the Build Back Better bill’s funding for “wasteful, unnecessary programs which will only serve to further drive inflation.”
Turner and Jordan did not respond to requests for comment.
Jobs and economic impact
Officials say the infrastructure law will bring a welcome increase in good-paying jobs as the country and economy continue to struggle from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
“Not only does it rebuild the country in so many ways that need to be built, but it does it with jobs you can’t outsource,” said Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO. “It’s a tremendous investment in our country and the American worker. And when the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce come together and support a piece of legislation like this, that tells you a lot.”
|Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act - Impact in Ohio FY 2022-2026|| |
|These are among the projects that will be funded in Ohio under the new $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. || |
|Roads and bridges||$9.7 billion|
|Public transportation||$1.2 billion |
|Electric vehicle charger network||$140 million|
|Broadband internet||A minimum of $100 million|
|Wildfire protection||$26 million|
|Cyberattack protection||$25 million|
|Weatherization to reduce energy costs||Not specified|
|Water infrastructure, including removing lead pipes||$1.4 billion|
|Airport infrastructure||$253 million|
| || |
|Note: Funding is estimated and often based on existing formulas. Governments can apply for additional funds for projects, including roads, bridges and electric vehicle chargers.|| |
|Source: The White House|
Officials offer wide-ranging estimates of how many jobs the infrastructure act would create, but an analysis released this month by Moody’s Analytics says it would create more than 800,000 jobs at its peak in the middle of the decade.
The spending “supports stronger economic growth, which in turn generates more tax revenues and reduces other government spending on income support programs such as unemployment insurance,” according to the analysis co-written by Mark Zandi, chief economist, and Bernard Yaros, assistant director.
The law also strengthens the country’s Buy America rules under legislation co-sponsored by Brown and Portman, requiring American-made products, including iron, steel and manufactured products, be used for all federally funded infrastructure projects.
“We’re showing that we can work together to implement strong Buy America provisions for taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects to ensure foreign companies cannot continue to undercut our domestic industries,” Brown said. “It’s simple: American tax dollars should go toward American-made projects that support American jobs.”
Chris Runyan, president of the Ohio Contractors Association, said the wages earned by those working in infrastructure-related projects will trickle through the economy and give it a needed boost.
“The construction companies are very much going to benefit from this additional work. We have not fully rebounded from the down times that we saw last year during the pandemic as far as employment rates,” Runyan said. “This will bring us an opportunity to bring our employment numbers back up.”
Burga anticipates “shovels in the ground” by the first quarter of next year as the new money starts to flow.
Many companies have struggled to fill jobs, but both Runyan and Burga said they believe that, with the exception of the truck driver shortage, it will not be an issue for contractors and other construction-related companies.
“We have a solid middle class wage, and the jobs include fringes, health insurance and pensions,” Runyan said. “And even training funds are available.”
Brent Spence Bridge is SW Ohio priority
Ohio and Kentucky leaders hope the infrastructure law will help pay for a new bridge across the Ohio River to relieve pressure on the Kentucky-owned Brent Spence Bridge, a notorious choke-point that carries traffic from I-75 and I-71 between Cincinnati and Kentucky. The double-decker bridge is one of the busiest truck routes in the nation, carrying more than twice the 60,000 in daily vehicle traffic it was built to handle.
Credit: Staff photo by Kareem Elgazzar
Credit: Staff photo by Kareem Elgazzar
“We’ve got a major bridge in my hometown, and it’s also a major bottleneck desperately in need of replacing. We’ve been trying to do it for 25 years, but we haven’t been able to pull together the funding and figure out how to do it,” Portman said during his speech at the White House ceremony. “This new law finally gives us the tools we need to fix the Brent Spence Bridge.”
Ohio’s roads got a D grade and its bridges a C+ in the American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 report card. The report says 6% of the state’s 44,736 bridges and 17% of its nearly 123,000 miles of public roads are in poor condition.
|2021 Infrastructure Report Card - American Society of Civil Engineers|| || |
|Type||National grade||Ohio grade|
|*Ohio report card did not include aviation|| || |
|Source: American Society of Civil Engineers|| |
Ohio is second in the nation for number of bridges and fourth for total interstate lane miles, but inadequate funding kept state and local jurisdictions from doing needed repairs and capacity expansions, the report says.
Area engineers and planning officials said a portion of the money will be awarded by existing formulas and other parts will be by competitive grants.
“Definitely it’s a step in the right direction, as far as addressing infrastructure,” said Warren County Chief Deputy Engineer Kurt Weber, listing bridges across the Little Miami River along the Ohio 48 and US 22/Ohio23 corridors that will need widening as they reach capacity.
Statewide the formula-based funding provides a 30% increase for transportation and public transit for fiscal year 2022, according to a new analysis by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
“As projects are completed over time, the overall transportation system will become more reliable for the traveling public. Businesses will also be more productive as their costs are lowered,” the report said.
Clean water projects
Nationwide the new law provides $50 billion for clean water projects, which is the single largest federal investment in water ever made, according to the U.S. EPA. Another $5 billion is allocated for cleaning up pollution at Superfund and brownfield sites and improving waste management and recycling systems, the EPA said.
The law also provides $10 billion to help U.S. communities address emerging contaminants like PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as “forever chemicals” that have been found in Dayton region drinking water systems, Brown said.
He said $15 billion will go to remove lead pipes used in the nation’s drinking water systems.
“Public health supports any opportunity to reduce the risk of lead exposure in individuals,” said Jennifer Wentzel, director of environmental health at Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County. “Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health, including damage to the brain and nervous system. No level of lead in the blood is considered safe, especially for children.”
Grants will also be available to help increase resilience of water systems to natural disasters like the 2019 tornados that knocked out the water service and let sewage overflow into the Stillwater River in Montgomery County.
The county is awaiting guidance from the feds, but several projects could fit the new law’s parameters, said Matt Hilliard, director of Montgomery County environmental services.
Portman and Brown collaborated on multiple parts of the bill, and both said the new law highlights how the country wins when Republican and Democratic lawmakers find common ground.
“The increasing polarization of our country is keeping us from getting things done, and we have a responsibility to do better,” Portman said in his Monday speech. “The American people want to see us coming together. They know that despite our differences, we should be able to figure it out and work together to solve big problems.”
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