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White House, Bipartisan Congress Group Reaches Deal on Major Infrastructure Bill

Jul 30, 2021 | Silvio Renna

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group in Congress and the Biden administration came to an agreement on details for the long-awaited infrastructure deal. The deal authorizes $550 billion in new investments in our nation’s infrastructure, aiming to stimulate the recovering economy and make long-needed changes to a wide variety of infrastructure areas.

The deal aims to create 2 million jobs a year through the coming decade while addressing long-standing shortcomings in our national infrastructure. While the majority of the agreement is focused on transportation infrastructure, the deal also promises significant investments in important environmental health infrastructure. The infrastructure deal also keeps a focus on climate change, directing funds to clean energy infrastructure and expanding federal programs to support EV adaptation.

Investments relevant to public health include:

  • $11 billion to reduce automotive and pedestrian fatality, improving highway, bike, and pedestrian safety systems
  • $55 billion to replace lead service lines, improve water quality, and limit PFAS contamination in drinking water supplies
  • $50 billion to make water infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyber attacks
  • $21 billion to environmental cleanup measures, including Superfund and brownfield sites, abandoned resource extraction sites

More details on the contents of the bill are below.

While more expansive and explicit public health infrastructure funding is not included in this agreement, NACCHO continues to strongly encourage Congress to recognize the fundamental importance of our public health infrastructure as we continue to navigate the pandemic, and we are working to include it in a possible infrastructure reconciliation package.

One area we are watching is on how the group would pay for the bill. Details on the bill’s pay-fors, or the sources Congress will leverage to pay for the bill’s contents, are still forthcoming. Senators say they have identified over $588 billion in potential funding, but many of the options are controversial, possibly nonviable, or not well fleshed out, leaving some uncertainty. For example, the bill would repurpose $205 billion in unused coronavirus relief funds, but its authors did not specify which fund pool would be tapped. This may pose a threat to public health relief dollars that have yet to be spent.

Transportation

While the deal has a wide reach, the majority of its focus remains connected to America’s transportation infrastructure. The bill provides $110 billion to create and rehabilitate bridges, roads, and major infrastructure projects across the country.

Public transit received major investments as well. The deal would invest $39 billion in improving the national network of buses, rail cars, and other small-scale forms of public transit, as well as $66 billion to take care of longstanding railway maintenance issues as well as modernize the northeastern network of railroads and stations.

Electric vehicles (EV) also saw major investments, with $7.5 billion being spent on the first-ever federal investment in EV charging infrastructure. These funds would be used to place EV chargers along highways, enabling reliable, long-distance EV travel. Electric buses also received funding, with three chunks of $2.5 billion going to zero emission bus purchases, low emission bus purchases, and ferry improvements.

$17 billion is included in port infrastructure as well as $25 billion to carry out essential maintenance and improvements to airports.

Environmental Health

The infrastructure deal, while largely focused on transportation-related issues, does make significant investments in environmental health and public safety programs. The deal would spend $11 billion to reduce automotive and pedestrian fatality, improving highway, bike, and pedestrian safety systems.

Water also received significant attention in the new deal, which promises to spend $55 billion on clean water infrastructure. These funds would be used to replace lead service lines, improve water quality, and limit PFAS contamination in drinking water supplies.

The bill also makes a significant investment in American water infrastructure’s ability to respond to climate events, which have devastated communities across the nation. These funds would be spent on drought and flood protections and weatherization of existing systems, hoping to make our critical infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters.

Environmental cleanup and remediation received a major investment as well, with $21 billion for environmental cleanup measures. Cleanup efforts would focus on Superfund and brownfield sites as well as cleaning up abandoned resource extraction sites. The bill also includes $73 billion in overhauling our national energy infrastructure, which they say will improve and maintain power delivery systems while investing in research for clean energy technology.


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