After months of negotiation and debate, Congress has finally passed a comprehensive measure. upgrade many parts of the nation’s infrastructure. The bill provides US$1.2 Trillion in funding, $550 Billion in new federal spending, and the rest renews existing transportation programs like highway construction.
While the bill is smaller than President Joe Biden’s original $2.6 trillion requestIt still represents the largest federal infrastructure investment in the United States in over a decade. A statement from the White House asserts that the legislation will “drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably.”
These five articles are from our archives and discuss infrastructure needs that will be funded.
1. Fixing crumbling bridges
The infrastructure bill allocates $110 billion to repair thousands of aging roads across the U.S. especially welcome in Alaska, where climate change is thawing permafrost – accelerating corrosion of steel bridges – and melting river ice that many people used to cross by snowmobile. Fewer than half of the state’s bridges are deemed to be in good condition.
“When the ice is unstable or unpredictable, people who rely on crossing the river are stuck and the risk of snowmobile fatalities rises,” a team of engineers and social scientistsPenn State University, the University of Alaska FairbanksReport. “Federal infrastructure investment could help direct funds to rural bridges that might otherwise continue to deteriorate.”
2. Building a 21st Century power grid
Energy experts widely agree that the U.S. needs to upgrade its electric grid so that it can deliver power more reliably over long distances and integrate more renewable electricity into the nation’s energy mix. The infrastructure bill will provide $65 billion for the upgrade and expansion of the grid.
Connecting the fragmented U.S. power system into what’s known as a macrogrid – a network that can move electricity seamlessly from one end of the U.S. to the other – could actually save moneyAccording to Iowa State University computer and electrical engineering professors, James McCalley. That’s true even though it would mean adding hundreds of megawatts of new generating capacity and new transmission lines to connect those power plants to customers.
“By making it possible to share power across regions and deliver high-quality renewable power from remote areas to load centers, the macrogrid would more than pay for itself,” McCalley writes.
3. Making streets safer for bikers as well as walkers
The infrastructure bill includes $11 billion for measures to make roads and streets safer. This includes investments to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, such as updated sidewalks, bike lanes, and street crossings.
John Rennie Short, an urban policy expert from the University of Maryland Baltimore County says these measures are overdue. “In the 21st century, a new city ideal has emerged of a more bike-friendly, walking-oriented city. But piecemeal implementation of bike lanes, pedestrianized zones and traffic calming measures often just adds to the confusion,” he writes. “More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic.”
Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians
4. More EV charging points
Experts are unanimous in their belief that to slow down climate change, there must be a massive global shift away fossil fuels to low- or zero-carbon energy sources. The auto industry is witnessing this transition, with carmakers investing billions in new electric vehicle designs.
The EV revolution is facing a critical speed bump. not enough public charging stations. The infrastructure bill includes $7.5 Billion to expand the U.S. network that is currently mainly located in coastal states.
Stanford University historian Paul N. Edwards calls this funding “a small but genuine down payment on a more climate-friendly transport sector and electric power grid, all of which will take years to build out.” While the upfront cost may seem high, Edwards notes that “over the long term, the potential savings from avoided climate risks like droughts, floods, wildfires, deadly heat waves and sea level rise would be far, far larger.”
5. Reconnecting divided neighborhoods
Most infrastructure bills provide funds for building new facilities, or upgrading existing ones. The legislation also provides $1 million for other purposes. tearing down highwaysThis has led to the exclusion of Black residents and other persons of color from the cities surrounding them, reducing their ability to access transportation, jobs, and economic opportunity.[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]
“As we see it, this funding represents a down payment on restorative justice: remedying deliberate discriminatory policies that created polluted and transit-poor neighborhoods like West Bellfort in Houston, Westside in San Antonio and West Oakland, California,” write urban policy scholars Joan FitzgeraldNortheastern University Julian AgyemanTufts University
As Fitzgerald and Agyeman see it, removing barrier highways alone won’t be enough to transform disadvantaged neighborhoods. But dismantling what they call “racist infrastructure” could catalyze other investments in housing, transportation and green spaces that would make these communities healthier and more prosperous.
Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.