After lengthy up-and-down negotiations, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators reached agreement on elements of a wide-ranging infrastructure bill that would provide about $550 billion in additional funds on top of existing spending, divided among major categories.
Construction, engineering and other industry groups hailed the news of the deal, which President Joe Biden announced on July 28.
At about 7 p.m. eastern on July 28, the Senate voted 67-32 to proceed to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The procedural vote will allow amendments to begin being debated.
Biden said the measure would "make the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century."
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key negotiator, said at an evening press conference, "This is a one-time shot in the arm to our nation's infrastructure." The $550 billion would be in addition to current "baseline" funding and would be spent "over a number of years," said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
According to a White House fact sheet, highways, bridges and major transportation projects would receive the largest share of the package, $110 billion.
Public transit would get $39 billion, which would include funds for infrastructure and vehicles.
The measure also would reauthorize the federal highway and transit programs for five years, long a top priority for construction, engineering and transportation groups. The programs’ authorization is scheduled to lapse on Sept. 30.
Passenger and freight rail would receive $66 billion, including $22 billion in grants to Amtrak. The allotment for highway safety would be $11 billion.
Electric vehicle charging stations would receive $7.5 billion. Electric school buses’ allocation also is $7.5 billion.
Plans to reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways or other transportation structures would receive $1 billion.
Airports would get $25 billion; maritime ports would receive $17 billion and measures to promote infrastructure resilience are in line for $50 billion. Drinking water infrastructure would have a $55 billion and broadband would receive $65 billion.
Environmental remediation, such as Superfund cleanups, would get $23 billion while electric power upgrades, including new transmission lines, would receive $73 billion.
The fact sheet is more opaque about revenue-raising offsets to the new spending. It says they would include “redirecting unspent emergency-relief funds, targeted corporate user fees, strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to crypto currencies and other bipartisan measures.”
The fact sheet also counts as offsets the “revenue generated from higher economic growth as a result of the investments.”
But Biden said the bill doesn't raise taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year, and also does not increase the gas tax or institute a fee on electric vehicles.
Construction Industry Reactions
Linda Bauer Darr, American Council of Engineering Companies’ president and CEO, said the announcement of a deal “is a huge step forward for the country and America’s engineering industry is ready to get to work designing the infrastructure of the future.”
But she cautioned, “Much work still needs to be done to deliver the agreement to the President” and urged legislators to complete the task.
David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association president and chief executive, had sent a letter to senators urging them to vote “yes” on the g procedural vote. He said the measure includes “a robust reauthorization of the federal highway and public transit programs," which “sends a positive message to states that were facing uncertainty.”
Tom Smith, American Society of Civil Engineers executive director, also called on the Senate to advance the bill. "Our nation's households don't have time to wait while they continue to lose $3,300 a year due to unreliable, aging infrastructure," ee said in a statement.
“We are eager to see details of the new proposal,” Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, said in an emailed statement to ENR. “But if initial reports prove accurate, the bipartisan infrastructure bill represents the best chance to significantly invest in building and maintaining a broad range of physical infrastructure without unnecessarily burdening the construction industry with new taxes and PRO Act mandates.”
The Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO, bill would make major changes in federal labor law. It is a top priority for organized labor, but contractor groups such as AGC and Associated Builders and Contractors are strongly opposed to the legislation.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in a statement that the new bill is a “step forward.” But he added that “on its own it does not go far enough to meaningfully advance environmental justice and tackle the climate change crisis.”