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Infrastructure package is ‘monumental step forward,’ says Biden

America will have the best roads, bridges, ports, and airports in the world when the new $1.2 trillion infrastructure law is fully implemented, said President Biden at a bill-signing ceremony on Monday. And he will be on the road to promote the benefits of the bipartisan package, beginning with a trip to New Hampshire to visit a structurally unsafe bridge that has been on the state’s “red list” since 2013.

“We’re taking a monumental step forward to build back better as a nation,” said Biden. “We will once again have the best roads, bridges, ports, and airports, over the next decade.”

The package includes $110 billion in new funding for roads and bridges, including $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation. The president called it “the most significant investment in roads and bridges in the past 70 years.”

It also puts $17 billion into port infrastructure and $25 billion into airports. The Waterways Council said $2.5 billion was earmarked for construction and major rehabilitation projects on inland waterways. “This provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernize the nation’s inland waterways transportation system to provide energy security, increase global competitiveness, and further improve our environmental footprint.”

Some $65 billion would be directed to expanding deployment of high-speed internet service throughout the nation. An estimated 35% of rural families currently lack access to broadband networks.

“This law is going to make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in America — urban, suburban, rural — and create jobs laying down those broadband lines,” said Biden. “No parent should have to sit in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant again just so their child can use the internet to do their homework.”

The National Farmers Union said the infrastructure package “will provide a much-needed boost to our rural economy and will help keep family farmers, ranchers, and our communities linked and connected with the rest of the country.”

One in every five miles of U.S. highways and major roads — a total of 173,000 miles — and 45,000 bridges are in poor condition, according to the White House. “Bridges in poor condition pose heightened challenges in rural communities, which often may rely on a single bridge for the passage of emergency service vehicles.”

During the signing ceremony, Biden stressed the bipartisanship and political compromise that allowed a polarized Congress to pass the infrastructure law. One of the speakers at the White House ceremony, Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said the package “will make us more competitive against countries like China.” Biden said U.S. investment in infrastructure under the new law “will grow faster than China’s” for the first time in two decades.

Biden said administration officials will barnstorm the country “to help you understand how this is going to transform your lives for the better.” He planned a trip to Woodstock, New Hampshire, to speak about road and bridge funding, with the red-listed bridge over the Pemigewasset River as a backdrop. On Wednesday, Biden is scheduled to visit a General Motors factory in Detroit that assembles electric vehicles. The infrastructure bill would fund a network of charging stations across the nation.

Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said they expected House passage this week of the administration-backed $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate change bill has been called the “soft” infrastructure companion of the traditional “hard” infrastructure projects of the $1.2 trillion bill.

The White House transcript of Biden’s remarks is available here.

To watch a C-SPAN video of the signing ceremony, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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