It took months, wasn’t pretty and required 13 Republican votes to pass, but the $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure bill is headed to President Biden’s desk. Speaker Nancy Pelosi left the vote open for the longest period in House history. After final passage, Biden quipped it was finally infrastructure week.
“I’m happy to say it’s infrastructure week.” – President Biden
The bipartisan bill includes $550 billion in newly authorized spending for roads, bridges and water systems, as well as billions to speed adoption of electric vehicles, bolster public transit, upgrade the nation’s power grid and expand broadband access.
After the Senate reached a deal and passed the physical infrastructure bill 68-29 in August, the measure has languished in the House as Democratic progressives and moderates have wrangled over the Build Back Better initiative, Biden’s so-called human infrastructure proposal. Progressives refused to vote for the physical infrastructure bill until there was consensus on the human infrastructure package. Moderates questioned the price tag.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi navigated an ever-changing stream of obstacles by connecting the two parts of Biden’s agenda, disconnecting them, reconnecting them again and, finally, disconnecting them again. The decision to move ahead with the vote on the physical infrastructure bill was influenced by strong GOP showings in gubernatorial elections last week in Virginia and New Jersey that Democratic leaders interpreted as repudiation for failure to pass Biden’s major legislative proposal.
Part of the latest concession was to delay a House floor vote on the $1.75 trillion human infrastructure package, which is in the form of a budget reconciliation resolution, pending a review by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Backers of the human infrastructure resolution claim tax provisions that it contains will not increase the federal deficit. Democratic moderates want assurance that claim is independently substantiated. As of now, the House is scheduled to consider the human infrastructure package sometime during the week of November 15-19.
Lack of public support for both pieces of infrastructure investment has been attributed to an absence of careful explanation of what’s in them. For this blog, here are the details for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act pending Biden’s signature to become law:
- Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grants – $7.5 billion (Existing Competitive Grant Program)
- This investment will boost funding for the RAISE (formerly BUILD) grant program, which supports surface transportation projects of local and/or regional significance.
- Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant Program – $8 billion (Existing Competitive Grant Program)
- Renames the INFRA program to be the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Program (NSMFHP).
- Sets aside $150 million for a pilot program that prioritizes applications offering the greatest non-federal local match.
- Increases the minimum amount (from 10 to 15 percent) of funding for small projects and requires that not less than 30 percent of small project funding be used for rural areas. It also increases the federal share allowable for small projects from 60 to 80 percent.
- Adds the enhancement of freight resilience to natural hazards or disasters as additional consideration by the Secretary when making awards.
- Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program – $2 billion (New Competitive Grant Program)
- Directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a rural surface transportation grant program to provide competitive grants to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas (populations less than 200,000).
- Grants will be at least $25 million and require a 20% non-federal match. No more than 10 percent of the funds may be used for projects smaller than $25 million.
- National Infrastructure Project Assistance Grant Program – $5B (New Competitive Grant Program)
- This new program supports multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional projects of national or regional significance that would otherwise be unachievable without assistance.
- Bridge Grant Program: $9.235 billion (New Competitive Grant Program)
- This new program provides competitive grants for bridges.
- Under this program, the minimum grant amount for a large project is not less than $50,000,000; the minimum grant amount for any other eligible project is $2,500,000. At least 50 percent of program funds from must be used for large projects.
- Federal share is 100 percent.
- Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection and Construction Formula Program: $27.5 billion
- 75 percent distributed “by the proportion that the total cost of replacing all bridges classified in poor condition in such State bears to the sum of the total cost to replace all bridges classified in poor condition in all States; and
- 25 percent distributed by the proportion that the total cost of rehabilitating all bridges classified in fair condition in such State bears to the sum of the total cost to rehabilitate all bridges classified in fair condition in all States.”
- Federal share is 100 percent.
- Safe Streets for All – $5 billion (New Competitive Grant Program)
- New program that will directly supports local governments “vision zero” plans and other improvements to reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.
- Healthy Streets Program – $500 million (New Competitive Grant Program)
- Establishes a discretionary grant program to provide grants to eligible entities to deploy cool pavements and porous pavements and to expand tree cover. The goals of the program are to mitigate urban heat islands, improve air quality, and reduce the extent of impervious surfaces, storm water runoff and flood risks, and heat impacts to infrastructure and road users.
- Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program – $500 million (New Competitive Grant Program)
- Establishes a community connectivity pilot program through which eligible entities may apply for planning funds to study the feasibility and impacts of removing, retrofitting, or mitigating an existing transportation facility that create barriers to mobility, access, or economic development, and for construction funds to carry out a project to remove, retrofit or mitigate an eligible facility and, if appropriate, to replace it with a new facility.
- $100 million for planning grants.
- $400 million for capital construction grants.
- Railroad Crossing Elimination Program – $3 billion (New Competitive Grant Program)
- Establishes a competitive grant program for projects that make improvements to highway and pathway rail crossings, such as eliminating highway-rail at-grade crossings that are frequently blocked by trains, adding gates or signals, relocating track, or installing a bridge.
- National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program: $4 billion (New Competitive Grant Program)
o Creates a National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Program to provide grants to states, local governments and tribes to address anadromous fish passage as well as provide funding for certain freshwater impacts to marine fish and shellfish species.
- Surface transportation Block Grant Program (Formula Program, but increased allocation to TAP and local governments)
- Increases the amount of funding set aside within the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) Program for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), increases the minimum percentage of TAP funding that is sub-allocated on the basis of population to 59 percent, and provides a process by which States may opt to increase that percentage to as high as 100 percent. Adds eligibilities for smaller communities to apply for TAP funding.
- Adds new eligibilities to STBG including construction of wildlife crossing structures, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid infrastructure, installation and deployment of intelligent transportation technologies, projects that facilitate intermodal connections between emerging transportation technologies, resilience features, cybersecurity protections, and rural barge landings, docks, and waterfront infrastructure projects, and the construction of certain privately owned ferry boats and terminals.
- Increases off-system bridge set-aside, and allows low water crossing replacement projects to be eligible for use under this set-aside, and creates a new set-aside for projects in rural areas.
- Provides for more granular suballocation of funding, with a new population category for 50,000 to 200,000, and provides for state consultation with metropolitan planning organizations
- Charging and Refueling Grant Program ($2.5 billion): Authorizes $2.5 billion over five years to establish a new competitive grant program at DOT for Alternative Fuel Corridors as proposed in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works surface transportation reauthorization bill (S. 1931). The program is designed to strategically deploy publicly accessible alternative fuel vehicle charging infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors or in certain other locations that will be accessible to all drivers of alternative fuel vehicles.
o Eligibility: Eligible entities are state and local governments, MPOs and other public-sector entities.
o Use of Funds: Grants are to be used to contract with a private entity for acquisition and installation of publicly accessible alternative fuel vehicle charging and fueling infrastructure that is directly related to the charging or fueling of a vehicle. Eligible entities may use a portion of grant funds to provide a private entity operating assistance for the first five years of operations after infrastructure installation.
o Community Grant Set-Aside: 50 percent of the total program funds will be made available each fiscal year for Community Grants, to install charging infrastructure in locations on public roads, schools, parks, and in publicly accessible parking facilities. These grants will be prioritized for rural areas, low- and moderate income neighborhoods and communities with low ratios of private parking or high ratios of multiunit dwellings.
o Cost-Share: The federal cost share for a project may not exceed 80 percent. Further, as a condition of contracting with an eligible entity, a private entity must agree to pay the non-federal share of project costs.
- EV Charging Formula Program ($5 billion): To complement the $2.5 billion for the Charging and Refueling Grant program at DOT, the provision appropriates $1 billion per year for five years ($5 billion total) to establish a National Electric Vehicle Formula Program at DOT to provide additional funding to states to deploy EV charging infrastructure.
o Eligible Use of Funds: 1) Acquisition and installation of EV infrastructure to serve as a catalyst for the deployment of such infrastructure and to connect it to a network to facilitate data collection, access and reliability; 2) operation and maintenance; and 3) data sharing about EV infrastructure.
o Charging stations must be located along a designated Alternative Fuel Corridor.
o Cost Share: The federal cost-share for a project may not exceed 80 percent. Private entity may pay the non-federal share of the cost of the project.
o State Proposals: Directs DOT to establish a deadline for states to provide a plan describing how the state plans to use the funding. Requires DOT and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop, in concert, guidance for states and localities to strategically deploy EV charging infrastructure.
o Contract with Private Entity: Grants may be used to contract with a private entity for acquisition and installation of publicly accessible alternative fuel vehicle charging and fueling infrastructure that is directly related to the charging or fueling of a vehicle.
o Establishes Joint Office of Energy and Transportation: Establishes a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation at DOT and DOE to coordinate work on EV infrastructure, which would include new installation and interoperability standards.
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, that oversees the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), was the only transportation authorization committee in the Senate that had not drafted its portion of the surface transportation authorization bill. The transit section was drafted during the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations; and therefore, there aren’t many policy changes for transit versus previous transportation authorization bills.
- Capital Investment Grants: $15 billion
- Increases the threshold for capital costs from $300 million to $400 million, and federal share from $100 million to $150 million for Small Starts.
- Amends Core Capacity eligibility to use a 10- year timeframe versus 5 years to demonstrate capacity needs.
- Establishes a process to allow multiple projects in a community to move forward simultaneously for immediate and future bundling of projects allowing sponsors to seek savings during the contracting process. This replaces the “Program of Interrelated Projects” eligibility.
- State of Good Repair Formula Grants: $18.39 billion
- Bus Formula Grants: $3.161 billion
- Bus Competitive: $2.34 billion
- Low-No Buses: $374.6 million
- Urbanized Area Formula Grants: $33.54 billion
Supplemental One-Time Transit Plus-Ups
- FTA Capital Investment Grant Program: $8 billion
- 55 percent for New Starts
- 20 percent for Core Capacity projects
- 15 percent for Small Starts
- 10 percent for Expedited Project Delivery projects
- All Stations Accessibility Program: $1.75 billion
- Competitive grants to assist states and local governments in financing capital projects to upgrade the accessibility of legacy rail fixed guideway public transportation systems for persons with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs.
- FTA Transit Infrastructure Grants: $10.25 billion
- State of Good Repair: $4.75 billion
- Low or No Emission Buses: $5.25 billion
- Formula grants for the enhanced mobility of seniors and individuals with disabilities: $250 million
This legislation appropriates $25 billion over five years for airports.
- Airport Infrastructure Grants: $15 billion over five years/$3 billion annually
- Funding can be used for any Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) eligible projects except debt service payments.
- Local match mirrors Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
- $2.48 billion annually for primary airports.
- $500 million annual for general aviation and non-primary airports.
- $20 million annually for competitive grants to construct, rehabilitate or relocate airport-owned contract towers. No local match. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will prioritize projects that enhance aviation safety and improve air traffic efficiency.
- New Airport Terminal Competitive Grant Program: $5 billion over five years/$1 billion annually
- 55 percent of the grants are required to be distributed to large hub airports, 20 percent for small hubs, 15 percent for medium hubs and 10 percent for non-primary airports.
- Eligible projects include terminal development projects and projects for relocating, reconstructing, repairing or improving air traffic control towers and on-airport rail projects.
- 80 percent federal share for medium and large hubs and a 95 percent federal share for small airports.
- FAA Facilities and Equipment: $5 billion over five years/$1 billion annually
- Eligible uses for these funds include replacing terminal and Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities, fuel storage tank replacement, electrical power system support, and hazardous materials management and environmental cleanup.
- $200 million reserved for airports that participate in the FAA Contract Tower Program to upgrade aging FAA-owned ATC facilities.
- Western Water Infrastructure – $8.3 billion
- Authorizes more than $8 billion for FY22-26 for western water infrastructure, including:
- $3.2 billion for aging infrastructure,
- $1.15 billion for water storage, groundwater storage and conveyance projects (includes $100 million for a new small-water storage program),
- $1 billion for water recycling and reuse projects (includes $450 million for large water recycling projects),
- $250 million for desalination projects,
- $1 billion for rural water projects,
- $500 million for dam safety projects,
- $300 million for Drought Contingency Plan (includes $50 million for Upper Basin States),
- $400 million for WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants (includes $100 million for natural infrastructure projects),
- $100 million for the Cooperative Watershed Management Program,
- $250 million for Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program,
- $100 million for multi-benefit watershed projects, and
- $50 million for Colorado River fish species recovery programs.
- Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds – $23.426 billion
- This provision provides funds to the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds, which provide below-market rate loans and grants to fund water infrastructure improvements to protect public health and the environment. Forty-nine percent of the funding will be administered as grants and completely forgivable loans.
- Grants to states for broadband deployment – $42.45 billion
- This funding supports a formula-based grant program to states, territories and the District of Columbia for the purposes of broadband deployment. Projects would have to meet a minimum download/upload build standard of 100/20 megabits per second.
- The funding includes 10% set-aside for high-cost areas and each state and territory receives an initial minimum allocation, a portion of which could be used for technical assistance and supporting or establishing a state broadband office.
- States would be required to have enforceable plans to address all their unserved areas before they are able to fund deployment projects in underserved areas. After both unserved and underserved areas are addressed, states may use funds for anchor institution projects.
- Additional Support for Rural Areas – $2 billion
- The provision includes support for programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including the ReConnect Program, that provide loans and grants (or a combination of loans and grants) to fund the construction, acquisition or improvement of facilities and equipment that provide broadband service in rural areas.
- “Middle Mile” – $1 billion
- Creates a grant program for the construction, improvement or acquisition of middle-mile broadband infrastructure.
- Policy changes:
- Broadband Speed Study – Directs GAO to provide a report to Congress evaluating the FCC’s process for establishing broadband speed standards.
- Modifies Emergency Broadband Benefit and Makes Renamed Program Permanent ($14.2 billion): Makes the Emergency Broadband Benefit program at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)3 permanent, renaming it to the Affordable Connectivity Program. The program provides a $30 per month voucher for low-income families to use toward any internet service plan of their choosing. It builds on the Emergency Broadband Benefit, making the benefit permanent and expanding eligibility to help more low-income households.
- Consumer Broadband Labels: Requires the display of “consumer broadband labels.” Consumer broadband labels were proposed by the FCC in 2016 in an effort to help consumers better understand what they are receiving in terms of pricing, performance levels and data caps.
- Digital Discrimination: Requires the FCC to adopt rules within two years to address digital discrimination. It also directs the FCC to develop “model policies and best practices” for states and localities to prevent digital discrimination.
- Army Corps of Engineers – $9.55 billion (for infrastructure priorities)
- This includes $5.15 billion for construction projects to help address the huge backlog of authorized projects that have yet to receive funding. Included under Corps construction are specific funding set-asides for Navigation, Inland Waterways, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Environmental Infrastructure, Continuing Authorities Program, Shore Protection, and Remote and Subsistence Harbor Projects.
- Within the $4 billion for Corps Operations and Maintenance, which would be spent over a three-year period, there is funding for dredging Federal navigation projects and repairing damages to Corps Projects caused by natural disasters.
- Port Infrastructure Development Program – $2.25 billion
- PIDP grants can improve port infrastructure, including intermodal connections, or reduce or eliminate pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reduction in Truck Emissions at Ports – $400 million
- This program requires the Secretary of Transportation to coordinate and fund projects through competitive grants that reduce port-related emissions from idling trucks.
- $1.5 billion over five years for the EPA Brownfields program to help communities, States, Tribes, and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties.
- $3.5 billion available for 5 years for the Hazardous Substance Superfund program to allow EPA to invest in clean-ups and continue moving forward on remedial actions for Superfund sites.
- $275 million over five years for grants to states to support improvements to local post-consumer materials management, including municipal recycling programs, and to assist local waste management authorities in making improvements to local waste management systems.
- $75 million for grants to states and local governments focused on improving material recycling, recovery, management, and reduction. The new EPA program would help educate households and consumers about residential and community recycling to decrease contamination in the recycling stream.
- FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program – $1 billion
- This is a pre-disaster mitigation program, supporting states, local communities, tribes, and territories undertaking hazard mitigation projects to reduce the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards.
- Wildfire Risk Reduction – $3.4 billion
- Provide funding to both the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to support a variety of wildland fire fighting efforts, like funding for community wildfire defense grants, mechanical thinning, controlled burns, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, and firefighting resources.
- Burned Area Rehabilitation Programs – $500 million
- When fires burn so hot that they destroy a landscape beyond what can be naturally tolerated, some environments become unlikely to recover without human assistance. These programs repair or improve such landscapes.
- $225 million over 5 years for DOI to carry out burned area rehabilitation
- $225 million over 5 years for USFS to carry out burned area rehabilitation
- When fires burn so hot that they destroy a landscape beyond what can be naturally tolerated, some environments become unlikely to recover without human assistance. These programs repair or improve such landscapes.
Efficiency and Building Infrastructure
The bill authorizes numerous programs to encourage and fund energy efficiency upgrades to various types of building infrastructure. These programs include:
- Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant: Provides $550 million for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG), a block grant program to provide grants to state and local governments for energy efficiency and conservation projects. The legislation amends the program to allow EECBG funding to be used to finance energy efficiency and other clean energy investments, projects, loan programs and performance contracting programs.
- Residential and Commercial: Provides $250 million to establish the Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund Capitalization Grant program under the State Energy Program for states to conduct commercial or residential energy audits or upgrades and retrofits. States are required to use the grants to leverage private capital to the greatest extent practicable. The bill also authorizes $40 million to states to train individuals to conduct commercial or residential energy audits.
- Cost-Effective Codes Implementation for Efficiency and Resilience: Provides $225 million toward a competitive grants program through DOE’s Building Technologies Office for states or regional partnerships to implement updated building energy codes, including through training and data collection.
- Building, Training and Assessment Centers; Career Skills Training: Provides $10 million in grants to institutions of higher education to establish centers to train engineers and other qualified individuals in energy-efficient design and operations. An additional $10 million would go toward the federal cost share of nonprofit partnerships between public employers, industry and labor for career skills training programs.
- Future of Industry Program and Industrial Research and Assessment Centers: Provides $550 million to fund institutions of higher education-based centers that provide assessments of small- and medium-sized manufacturers to optimize their energy efficiency and environmental performance. These centers would also promote emerging technologies and R&D for alternative energy sources for energy-intensive industries.
- Weatherization Assistance Program: Provides $3.5 billion for the existing Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which reduces household energy use through installation of cost-effective energy savings programs.
- AFFECT Grants: Provides $250 million for the Assisting Federal Facilities with Energy Conservation Technologies (AFFECT) grant program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Program (FEMP) to provide grants to federal agencies to leverage private capital to make energy and water efficiency upgrades to federal buildings.