Ed Talks: Infrastructure Investment Proves American Cities, Towns, Families & Workers Are Priorities
Now that we’ve all had time with family, filled up on Thanksgiving, watched football and traveled this country, it’s important to coalesce around what has been achieved and consider where we are headed.
President Biden recently signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill is one benchmark. But, as scrutiny continues during these very challenging times, the implementation of funding for projects will be a benchmark too.
I want to thank all of you for the hard work that brought us to this moment; however, I also want to share a frame of reference.
In the summer of 2019, a small group of advocates met at a D.C. bar and restaurant to celebrate the Republican-led Senate EPW (Environment and Public Works) Committee advancing a substantial piece of highway legislation. Little did we know that more than two years later, we’d be in the midst of COVID or that Congress would pass one of the most historic pieces of infrastructure investment in our lifetimes.
As Executive Director of the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition, I get that the policy and traditional and social media buzz about passage of the bill has been on full throttle, but thankfully it includes counterbalances. Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican and Chairman of the National Governors Association (NGA), applauded Congress “for setting aside partisan differences to pass a bill that works for the American people.”
ATM members focus on transportation and infrastructure on a regular basis. But as information is increasingly fed through funnels, we’ve seen how communications and sharing local voices are central to the national conversation. In communities, mobility may look like it happens in pockets, but we all know it’s part of a collective network.
Attention and a focus on the supply chain make it evident that the things Americans prioritize — such as holidays, global and interstate commerce and a leading economy — don’t happen without infrastructure. Nearly every agricultural product or good moves on an American highway for at least a portion of its journey, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
We know that federal infrastructure investment is not a flash-in-the-pan issue. For 20 years, the ATM has advocated and communicated the importance of a reliable federal partnership in improving and modernizing the United States’ transportation grid. We’ve successfully worked on multi-year legislation, and we see that strategic communications is based on galvanizing transformative policies and on ongoing endeavors.
Also, passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) solidifies that federal funding for infrastructure is a policy dark horse in America.
Signs are that the infrastructure tent and funding needs are diverse. In one category, Alabama — which has a growing tech sector — is getting nearly $80 million for electric vehicle charging stations. Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are touting $1.3 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Arizona officials met to mark a $158 million federal transit grant for light rail extension. Missouri will see $9 billion over five years. Jeff Shudak, a plumber and President of the Western Iowa Labor Federation, called the bill “the greatest single piece of legislation for the American worker in 80 years.”
TAG Houston says Texas will receive $100 million for broadband, $2.9 billion for water infrastructure, and $27 billion for roads and bridges, among other critical dollars. Tribal leaders across the country are hopeful for clean drinking water. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms discussed the benefits for her region, including for educational institutions. The bill creates multiple funding avenues for states needing to address old and outdated bridges, such as the Brent Spence Bridge between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
In the end, we have to acknowledge that the battle is bigger than us because a bipartisan infrastructure package is a message that America can still function as a nation, and that our system can work to fuel our economy and preserve our quality of life. This is why ATM tells America’s infrastructure story in different ways. The goals are to foster collaboration, educate policymakers and the public, get things fixed and built, and show and discuss crumbling American infrastructure and a better future.
Expanding the knowledge sphere today with credible content has relevance. Each member group, every ally on the Hill and every campaign and organizational push show it takes more than a village to get this done.
It takes villages and time.
So, with that said, ATM is excited to begin the next chapter and facilitate much-needed change. Please feel free to reach out to us with your thoughts and input.