Biden Outlines How Infrastructure Funds Will Transform Country

President Joe Biden addresses the conference. (Noel Fletcher/Transport Topics)

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Improving the nation’s transportation system with $1.2 trillion in infrastructure investments is a key to uplifting the middle class, adding jobs and revitalizing American industry, President Joe Biden told a gathering of city officials in Washington.

“America was falling behind on infrastructure. We used to be No. 1 in the world. We’re now No. 8,” Biden said. “But now, not only has infrastructure week finally arrived, we’re talking about [an] infrastructure decade, not week.”

Biden addressed more than 100 local municipal officials March 14 during the National League of Cities’ Congressional City Conference.



Touching on his experiences as a 27-year-old elected official on a county council, he recalled how people in communities look to local leaders to improve their quality of life. “You’re out there on the front lines of public service,” Biden said.

He also stressed his view that the COVID-19 relief bill he signed a year ago, known as the American Rescue Plan, was successful in helping people during the pandemic because “we made sure $130 billion of that went straight to local government.”

Biden also declared that the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act he signed in November will “create millions of jobs rebuilding America’s roads, bridges, highways, ports and airports.”

Already, 4,000 projects — including work on 1,500 bridges — have been authorized to start this year; efforts that Biden said will translate into local jobs.

“It’s now time for cities and towns to get ready,” he said. “You don’t have to wait until these infrastructure projects start. You’re going to need more welders, pipefitters, advanced manufacturers. Build the strong, diverse workforce you need to take on these infrastructure jobs so the families in your communities can deal themselves into this booming economy.”

Vowing to boost American manufacturing through funding allocations on federal projects, Biden also touched on an announcement earlier in the day for about $409 million in new grants, including 70 new projects across 39 states to modernize and electrify the nation’s buses, while enhancing safety and reliability.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who spoke before Biden, in a news release said grants being awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration will help local communities purchase electric buses and other technologies to lower or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean air.

Noting that more than $50 billion has already been issued, Buttigieg told attendees to expect subsequent announcements about availability of new programs as funding is issued, and to be ready to make investments.

“The state of play is that we are moving very swiftly to make these dollars available, because we know our community partners have projects and ideas that are ready,” he said. “There’s no part of this country that’s going to be untouched by this funding.”

Buttigieg said the administration is standing up 40 new infrastructure-related programs that will have user-friendly common applications processes, and urged local-level collaboration.

“We’re also encouraging communities to join forces and find ways to batch or simplify what some of you are doing so it can arrive at our doorstep in a more consolidated way,” he added.

Pollack

Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, during a workshop at the conference highlighted how to use federal and state transportation programs to rebuild roads, bridges and culverts. While DOT is set to receive half of the $1.2 trillion, Pollack noted $350 billion over the next five years will flow through FHWA.

“We actually have a division in every state, the only part of USDOT that’s in your state. You should get to know us,” she said, adding that FHWA will take a more active role in helping state DOTs invest in community projects rather than mainly funneling money to state projects.

“We do care what we accomplish with that money,” she said, adding that federal officials aim to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

“We have to make sure that money achieves these goals that the president has laid out,” Pollack said.

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