Relief and jubilation as $1trn US infrastructure deal passes House

President Joe Biden addressing the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow on 1 November 2021 (The White House/Public domain)
Construction organisations in the US have reacted with relief and jubilation at the passage late Friday night of US President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal after a 228-206 vote in the House of Representatives.

The bill, formally titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was approved by the Senate in August but has since been delayed in the House as some Democrats tried to tie it to a much bigger social spending bill.

Among the act’s provisions are $110bn to repair roads and bridges; $39bn to improve public transit; $17bn to upgrade ports and $25bn to upgrade airports; $66bn for rail improvement and expansion; $65bn to upgrade the electricity grid; and $55bn for clean water infrastructure.

As well as rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, it will create “rewarding careers for a generation of new construction professionals”, industry figures said.

After the vote, Biden called it a “once-in-a-generation investment that’s going to create millions of jobs modernising our infrastructure — our roads, our bridges, our broadband, a whole range of things — to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity”.

Employers’ group, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), welcomed the act’s passage.

“Because of today’s vote, state and local officials will be able to invest in a more efficient supply chain network,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC chief executive.

“They will also be able to improve roads and bridges to make them safer and more reliable. Metro areas will be able to better maintain and expand transit systems. And water authorities will be able to further safeguard the quality of local drinking water, among other improvements funded by this bill. The measure also provides needed investments to make infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.”

Sandherr added: “Once the President signs this bill into law, our members are ready to begin the hard, but necessary, work of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. They will also begin the work of building rewarding careers for a generation of new construction professionals because of this measure. Ultimately, these new infrastructure investments will provide a needed boost for the construction industry while making our economy more efficient.”

“Finally, at long last, infrastructure week is really here,” said Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of unions.

“Today’s final passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a monumental political and legislative accomplishment. After decades of delay and decline, America’s workers stand ready to rebuild our country. This $1 trillion investment in roads, bridges, transit, rail, climate change mitigation, electric vehicles, clean drinking water, high-speed internet, resilient transmission lines and more is centered around the creation of good union jobs.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which issues regular “report cards” on US infrastructure as a whole – most often awarding poor grades – hailed the act as “the country’s largest investment in infrastructure in nearly a century”.

“This is a historic time for our country, and ASCE’s members should be proud they played a substantial role in getting this bill crafted and passed,” said ASCE President Dennis D. Truax.

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