infrastructure bridge west virginia

The new formula bridge program, part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, provides funding to states to repair and replace bridges.

Infrastructure Spending Heats Up as Summer Approaches

By Ben Husch | May 16, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

It was a cold and windy November day in 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on the White House lawn with both Republicans and Democrats at his side. At the six-month mark of the law’s implementation, federal agencies across the administration are shifting into high gear, with new programs taking shape and existing programs sending out significant funding increases to states.

For the past five years, a national “Infrastructure Week” has highlighted the need for drastic improvements to the nation’s roads, bridges and other public resources. This year, the week of May 16 has been designated as Infrastructure Week, but given the passage of the historic bipartisan infrastructure law, the focus has changed. NCSL President Scott Saiki was joined by representatives from a variety of state and local government organizations to commemorate what may be the very last Infrastructure Week by highlighting the most impactful parts of the law and informing the public and members of Congress of state plans for the funds.

Transportation and Water Formula Programs

With more than half of all funds falling under the umbrella of transportation infrastructure, it’s no surprise that the Department of Transportation has been the busiest. The new formula bridge program, which provides additional funding to states to repair and replace bridges, was unveiled earlier this year. Just a few short weeks later, the 20% increase in federal highway funds was one of the first things out of the gate after fiscal year 2022 appropriations were finalized. The middle part of 2022 is likely to see announcements covering a range of the department’s new discretionary grants, including rail, transit and traffic safety.

The infrastructure law’s funding for new water systems represented the largest single investment in drinking water, stormwater and other water resources in U.S. history, with most of the money flowing through states, territories and tribal nations via formula funds. With over $50 billion in water infrastructure funding, the Environmental Protection Agency has been hard at work ensuring states have the resources and guidance necessary to fully utilize existing and new aid via their Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Given the rise in action around both PFAS chemicals and lead in drinking water, states no doubt welcome new federal funding to address emerging contaminants and replace lead service lines.

Broadband Lagging

Unfortunately, one of the newest categories of infrastructure, high-speed broadband, has not seen its funds distributed as quickly as its name might suggest. But just prior to publication, the administration announced that it was opening its application process for states to access the $42.5 billion allocated to this program. The funding will help every state bring high-speed internet service to unserved and underserved areas. In conjunction, the administration recently released guidance for the law’s new program to help make high-speed internet more affordable. The combination of investments in broadband deployment and increased access for more families is critical for ensuring all our states are connected to high-speed internet.

The bipartisan infrastructure law is one of the most important bills of the 117th Congress and Biden’s first term. The projects it helps support will likely have an impact for decades to come. Want to dig into any of these areas without being overwhelmed by the bill’s more than 2,000 pages? The White House released a slimmed-down 400-page guidebook and a 17-page rural playbook. And please join NCSL at the 2022 Legislative Summit to attend a number of sessions focusing on implementation of the new law’s programs.

Ben Husch is a federal affairs advisor in NCSL’s State-Federal Relations Program.

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