What’s in it for me? Infrastructure & Jobs Act – Estes Park Trail-Gazette

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On November 15, President Biden signed into law HR 3684, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). For a full account of the winding road this bill took before it became Public Bill #117-58, see https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3684 /all-actions. There are many good things that IIJA will accomplish for ordinary Americans. An informal straw poll of our family over the holidays revealed that the biggest benefit they perceived was the increased availability of broadband. And the same family members said they didn’t really know enough about the contents of the bill, despite being well-informed news readers. We thought a positive way to end 2021 would be to look at some of the key details of this convention achievement.

We have found many good sources for factual summaries of IIJA content, including Investopedia, the Highway Administration and many others. A detailed 129-page synopsis of IIJA’s content can be found at this link: https://www.cantwell.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Infrastructure%20Investment%20and%20Jobs%20Act%20-%20Section%20by %20Section%20Summary.pdf

We found the National Association of Counties (NACO) summary to be concise and well designed. According to NACO, IIJA distributes federal funds totaling $973 billion over 5 years. Of that, $550 billion is earmarked for new investment “in addition to federal government spending on programs.”

“The $550 billion in new investment breaks down as follows:

Transportation: $284 billion (US Department of Transportation)

Water: $55 billion (US Environmental Protection Agency)

Broadband: $65 billion (US Department of Commerce)

Energy & Power: $73 billion (US Department of Energy)

Environmental cleanup: $21 billion (US Environmental Protection Agency)

Western Water Infrastructure: $8.3 billion (US Department of the Interior; US Department of Agriculture – US Forest Service)

Resiliency: $46 billion (US Department of Homeland Security)

The IIJA directs $284 billion (52 percent) of the $550 billion in new investment to modernize and improve all modes of transportation, with the bulk of the funds reserved for highways, roads and bridges:

Roads and Bridges: $110 billion

Transit: $39 billion

Bahn: $66 billion

Security: $11 billion

Airports: $25 billion

Ports and Waterways: $17 billion

EV chargers: $7.5 billion

Electric buses: $7.5 billion

Reconnecting Communities: $1 billion”

(https://www.naco.org/resources/legislative-analysis-counties-infrastructure-investment-jobs-act)

NACO says, “Counties play an important role in America’s transportation and infrastructure network, owning and operating 44 percent of public roads and 38 percent of bridges — more than any other level of government. At the same time, the districts directly support 78 percent of the public transportation systems and 34 percent of the airports that connect our residents to every corner of the country. Each year, counties invest $134 billion in building infrastructure and maintaining and operating public works.”

IIJA awards $42.45 billion in broadband deployment grants to states in fiscal year 2022. Each state will receive at least $100 million for broadband. Colorado officials estimate Colorado’s amount could be as high as $1 billion. IIJA includes $14.2 billion to change and expand support for households struggling to afford broadband internet. (https://www.fcc.gov/affordable-connectivity-program)

IIJAA includes $14.65 billion in potable and clean water funding over 5 years; FEMA $1 billion; Weathering Aid $3.5 billion in fiscal 2022; $5 billion over 5 years to support activities to reduce the impact of extreme weather, wildfires and disasters on the power grid; $2.5 billion over 5 years for charging and fueling infrastructure; $6.42 billion over 5 years for CO2 reduction to help non-motorized users of the road (e.g., trails), among other CO2 reduction strategies.

At the local level, “Among other benefits, Colorado is expected to receive $3.7 billion for roads, $225 million for bridge repairs and replacements, and $917 million for public transit.” (https://www.thedenverchannel. com/news/local-news/colorado-set-to-receive-billions-from-federal-infrastructure-package-for-roads-internet-more) John Hickenlooper’s RECHARGE Act has made the final version of IIJA. It’s focused on making electric vehicles more affordable, and “it’s also accelerating the development of more electric vehicle charging stations across the country.” Colorado is expected to receive $57 million over five years for this venture.”

A press release from Hickenlooper’s office welcomes “an initial $121,347,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for water infrastructure projects” that will help improve our aging water infrastructure. (https://www.hickenlooper.senate.gov/press-releases/hickenlooper-bennet-welcome-first-funding-headed-to-colorado-from-bipartisan-infrastructure-bill/)

Colorado Public Radio outlines some of IIJA’s Colorado benefits. (https://www.cpr.org/2021/11/08/colorado-transportation-projects-infrastructure-bill-funding/ ) Projects that may receive partial funding include Amtrak’s proposed new rail service from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. (https://www.cpr.org/2021/04/12/biden-infrastructure-bill-amtrak-front-range-passenger-rail/)

When it comes to broadband, the Colorado Sun covers many of the positive Colorado benefits. (https://coloradosun.com/2021/11/11/colorado-digital-divide-rural-broadband-infrastructure-bill/) The article includes a table detailing funds currently invested in broadband projects in Colorado and from the Colorado Broadband Office (https://broadband.colorado.gov/broadband-in-colorado). This office ranks 93% of rural Colorado as having broadband coverage (minimum 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed) as of November 2021. The article notes that this may not be correct. (At a glance, we checked our home address at https://gis.colorado.gov/broadbandviewer/ and the data shown does not accurately reflect our current download speed of 9 Mbps for fixed wireless downloads outside of Estes Park city limits .)

“Much of the broadband portion of the bill also comes from a local source: Senator Michael Bennet’s proposed BRIDGE Act (https://www.bennet.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?id=A74E4E17-00BD -4428-B9EE-42B1CADE6C37), which proposed $40 billion in flexible spending for states to build broadband infrastructure.” The article highlights a Colorado Broadband Fund broadband program that accepts applications twice a year . (https://broadband.colorado.gov/broadband-deployment-board-fund/broadband-fund) Of local interest, a $64,627.03 grant was awarded for “last mile infrastructure” to serve 171 homes in to cover the Big Elk Meadows of Larimer County neighborhood.

We agree that one of the most impactful elements of the new law will be increased access to high-speed broadband. Our Democrat-controlled House, Senate, and White House can do things to help all of us who live in the United States and have demonstrated that by passing this law. We hope that 2022 will bring more good laws that will benefit us all.

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