How the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is Affecting American Infrastructure?
The biggest recent development in American infrastructure is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which President Biden signed into law in November 2021. The law provides $1.2 trillion for transportation, energy, and climate infrastructure. Although most of the money is being distributed through state and local governments, some is also going to tribal nations, nonprofit organizations, and public-private partnerships.
Impact of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
State and local spending on infrastructure has seen a dramatic spike, the biggest increase in such spending since 1979.
Although spending on infrastructure usually declines as a share of the U.S. economy during recoveries, during the current recovery the opposite is true.
Lower-income states with lower-rated infrastructure have gotten more funding per capita as a result of the new law, enabling them to now spend as much on infrastructure as middle-income states have done in the past.
Watershed and Coastline
At the end of fiscal year 2023, the National Resources Conservation Service spent $846 million of BIL funds on watershed programs: $616 million for 238 projects in 49 states for watershed and flood prevention operations and watershed rehabilitation; $230 million for 27 emergency watersheds, including $133 million for wildfire recovery in New Mexico and $13.6 million for floodplain buyouts in Southeastern Kentucky. $70 million goes to other floodplain buyouts, and some of the money will also go to aerial seeding designed to slow soil erosion and reestablish the ground cover of native species.
Water projects account for 6.6% of the BIL’s spending commitment. The EPA will get $50 billion, the largest amount of federal spending on water infrastructure in the nation’s history, to improve drinking water and wastewater systems.
As the sustainability of desalination improves, the BIL is funding new solutions like desalination plants that are established far inland in the parched West, which contains vast reserves of previously unusable brackish groundwater. The practicality of desalination has long been known to coastal regions. But thanks to the new technology, people are coming to realize that brackish water can also be effectively desalinated far from coastlines to produce drinking water, irrigate farms, and serve industry.
BIL also funds water reclamation. It earmarks $1 billion over half a decade for water recycling, including $550 million for the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program and $250 million for desalination. Most of the funding will be channeled through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
$65 billion of BIL funding goes to projects that expand broadband access, including 42 billion for a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program to bring high-speed internet especially to “unserved locations”; $14 billion for low-income subsidies; $3 billion for digital equity, inclusion, and literacy; and $1 billion for middle mile infrastructure — i.e., infrastructure that connects “last mile” (local) networks to larger networks and the Internet.
More than 10% of BIL funding goes to energy, including clean-energy projects designed to improve energy systems and make the US more energy-independent. Some BIL money goes to battery storage, nuclear energy, hydroelectricity, and improvements in efficiency and resiliency. $97 billion provided by the BIL and the Inflation Reduction Act goes in part to new technology like clean hydrogen and carbon capture and storage; research and development in the Department of Energy; and programs to achieve carbon-free electricity by 2035 and, by 2050, a net-zero economy (an economy that would on net produce no or almost no greenhouse gas emissions).
A whopping 68.3% of the funds go to transportation projects. One is the 22nd Street Revitalization Project in Tucson, Arizona, which includes a new bridge designed to eliminate a freight bottleneck and weight restrictions. Another is the Maritime Support Facility Access/Terminal Island Rail System Project at the Port of Los Angeles, which will be built with a $20 million grant to streamline truck access at a port that receives 35% of all containers that enter the country by ship. Stamford, CT, will get $26 million for electric buses, and the Orlando International Airport will get $50 million for a new terminal.
More Spending to Come
BIL spending on generational infrastructure is pending. The Department of Energy recently published the Grid Resilience State and Tribal Formula Grant for fiscal year 2024 to solicit applications for funding of projects to modernize the power grid. Through 2026, cybersecurity projects and projects to protect the energy sector will be rolling out.
The sheer volume of all the projects being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is hard to grasp, and many more are on the way.