On November 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a momentous bill to assure a prosperous, safer, greener future for all Americans. At a price tag of over $1 trillion, the US Infrastructure Act, formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act (IIJA), contains one of the heftiest planned federal government spending packages to upgrade the United States’ physical framework.
Yet, the Infrastructure Act of 2021 does not stop at roads, bridges, and public transit. It allocates money to ensure safer drinking water, support job growth, and expand high-speed internet access. Additionally, the legislation boasts the first substantial investment to combat climate change in the US.
The magnitude of the US Infrastructure Act will allow it to touch every American life in a meaningful way once projects funded by the action fully commence. As President Biden stated, “Generations from now, people will look back and know this is when America won the economic competition for the 21st century.”
While this bill is certainly a valuable investment in our nation, it will also inevitably add a significant amount to the deficit and, ultimately, to the national debt. Without taking interest into account, the bill will directly add over $340 billion to the deficit and cost nearly $400 billion.
What does this mean for the US?
Clean water for all American families
Millions of US households, schools, and childcare facilities currently have limited access to clean drinking water. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act will improve water delivery systems and remove harmful lead pipes. People in rural, metropolitan, and Tribal Land areas will benefit, including struggling and disadvantaged communities that are the most in need.
The energy and water spending provision has a budget authority of $89 billion, with $55 billion dedicated specifically to clean water initiatives, and will have a $76 billion impact on the national deficit.
Access to high-speed internet
Within the US, approximately 14 million households lack access to the internet, and roughly 9% of Americans cannot receive fixed broadband at conventional threshold speeds due to location. The US Infrastructure Act will increase capabilities so that everyone nationwide can utilize dependable high-speed internet wherever they live, work, or play. These actions to enhance high-speed internet access will bolster the availability of knowledge and better learning, especially in historically underserved groups.
Ensuring every American has access to reliable high-speed internet will cost $65 billion and have a similar cost impact on the deficit.
Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges
About 173,000 miles of US roads and highways suffer from prolonged neglect and are in poor condition. The Infrastructure Act of 2021 seeks to address this program by providing $110 billion of new funding to repair, upgrade, and rebuild US roads and bridges. These efforts will promote a reduction in traffic deaths, enhance the strength of our ground transportation system, encourage greater equality between communities, and help fight the effects of climate change.
The US Infrastructure Act also provides money to promote a wide range of transportation-related activities that will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. The funded options will help build a more robust, sustainable transportation infrastructure that is economically reasonable and spurs job growth.
Investments in passenger rail, the largest since the rail’s inception, will increase the accessibility of this underutilized mode of mass transit. Furthermore, the gains in energy efficiency and reductions in carbon footprint for passengers will help firmly establish rail in the US as a greener alternative to automobiles and airplanes.
Electric vehicle (EV) users will also receive a boost from an astounding $7.5 billion spent over five years on EV charging infrastructure. The funding includes charging stations along highways and community grants for charging access close to homes, retail stores, and workplaces. President Biden has set a goal of establishing 500,000 stations by 2030 to assist EV owners in getting from place to place without worrying about where to charge.
According to WhiteHouse.gov, the new investments and reauthorization in this bill will dedicate $89.9 billion in guaranteed funding for public transit over the next five years — the largest Federal investment in public transit in history.
Upgrade airports and ports
Moreover, the Infrastructure Act will help to increase energy efficiency and cut toxic and greenhouse gas emissions at ports and airports. The planned measures will incorporate facility updates, climate-friendly development projects, and a new program to decrease emissions from idling trucks. These changes will enhance overall air quality and safeguard the climate from additional damage.
The legislation will invest $42 billion in upgrading airports and ports, with $17 billion dedicated to port infrastructure and waterways, and $25 billion to airports.
Clean, reliable energy across the country
America’s energy grid will also benefit from the Infrastructure Act of 2021. By modernizing existing energy transmission and constructing thousands of new miles of power infrastructure, the US will position itself to expand renewable and clean energy use while reducing prices. The funding will also bolster research and development of innovative technologies to speed the nation’s shift to a zero-emission economy.
At over $65 billion, this will be the largest investment in clean energy transmission and grid in American history.
Tackling legacy pollution in American history
The legislation will also channel funds into legacy pollution mitigation in numerous communities within the US. These former energy and industrial sites have continued to house hazardous substances long after operations have ceased and tend to be located near minority communities. Cleaning up Superfund and Brownfield sites (areas the EPA has categorized as environmentally hazardous due to pollution, contaminants, or similar issues), sealing orphaned gas and oil wells, and reclaiming old mines will better the future of public health and correct past environmental injustice.
What does this mean for climate change?
With the US Infrastructure Act, the federal government signals the importance of addressing climate change as a systemic threat to the nation’s future. The legislation slates approximately $122.5 billion for climate-related initiatives, including the following:
- $50 billion for climate weatherization and resilience;
- $65 billion for green energy and grid-related projects; and
- $7.5 billion for E.V. charging infrastructure
While all these measures constitute a mere drop in the bucket when combating climate change, the actions pave the way for the Biden Administration’s signature piece of climate legislation, the Build Back Better Act.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act also devotes billions to fighting severe weather events like drought, wildfire, flooding, and erosion. Additionally, smaller amounts would go towards programs such as planting trees, low-emitting buses, and less polluted ports.
Taking steps toward a better future
The US Infrastructure Act passed in 2021 proposes a bigger, brighter, greener future for America. With its passage, the federal government acknowledges the universal danger climate change poses to the nation and the need to meet the challenge. The law has the potential to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, enhance the transportation system, and expand access to high-speed internet for the benefit of all Americans.
These new provisions are certainly a step in the right direction for our nation and our planet, but they do come with a significant cost to the deficit, and subsequently, the national debt. Without the addition of interest, the Infrastructure Act will cost nearly $400 billion, with a direct add of $340 billion to the deficit. This cost is a substantial investment in our nation and planet’s future — a once-in-a-generation investment.
Up to Us is dedicated to building a sustainable economic and fiscal future for America’s next generation. You can learn more about why fiscal policy matters here: https://www.itsuptous.org/why-fiscal-policy-matters