With President Biden signing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law, Texas is set to receive an estimated $35.4 billion to improve infrastructure. Litigation associate Amanda Crouch and governmental affairs consultant Kate Goodrich walk through a number of projects listed in the plan and discuss how improvements for Texas roads, highways, bridges, broadband, ports, and more are allocated in the law. In addition, there is also money set aside to winterize the Texas energy grid to help prevent future reoccurrences of the major outages from the February freeze earlier this year.
Greg Lambert: Hi, everyone. I’m Greg Lambert, and this is Jackson Walker Fast Takes. With the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Biden, there are a number of issues we wanted to address on today’s podcast. So, I brought in a couple of Jackson Walker attorneys to cover a piece of the new law. Amanda Crouch, and Kate Goodrich, thanks for coming on in and explaining some of what’s in this $1.2 trillion packet and, more importantly, how it’s going to affect Texas.
So, Kate, I want to start with you: Can you give us just a little bit of an overview of the bill itself?
Kate Goodrich: Yes. Thank you so much for having me back, Greg. I always love to talk to you.
So, you’re correct. On Monday, November 15, President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion—with a capital T—trillion-dollar infrastructure bill into law. In doing so, he finalized a key part of his economic agenda. He has been talking about this since he very first started campaigning. A lot of people are calling this a once-in-a-generation investment bill. It’s one of the biggest bills that Congress has ever passed, and it is definitely going to be something that President Biden wants to make sure is part of his legacy.
Greg Lambert: And Amanda, it has been mentioned that it’s a $1.2 trillion – with a T – package. But how much of this is actually new spending in this bill, and can you give us a little bit of a scope on where and when some of that spending will take place?
Amanda Crouch: Sure. As Kate mentioned, this bill is expansive and it will touch many different sectors of the U.S. economy. Specifically, it will deliver $550 billion of new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over the next five years, which touches everything from bridges and roads to broadband, water, and energy systems. Combined with President Biden’s Build Back framework, it’s supposed to add on an average of 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years.
So, let’s talk a little bit about the bill by the numbers. More than half of it is going to transportation in a variety of different ways. The legislation will put $110 billion into roads, bridges, and other major projects. Included is $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation. This is important because it is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system that started in the 1950s. It will also invest $66 billion in freight and passenger rail, including potential upgrades to Amtrak. Of course, President Biden has to upgrade his favorite mode of transportation as part of this legacy bill. The plan will put $65 billion into expanding broadband, which has become a priority after COVID-19 left millions of Americans at home without effective internet access. It will also put $55 billion into improving water systems and replacing lead pipes, and another $50 billion towards making those power and water systems more resilient to protect from droughts, floods, and cyber-attacks.
In terms of when this will happen, Greg, of course none of it will happen overnight. The funding will go out over a five-year period. I’m sure we will see more details about exactly when and how that will occur in the coming months and years.
Greg Lambert: All right. Thanks, Amanda. Kate, that covers some of what’s in the overall bill itself. But what does it mean for Texas’ infrastructure?
Kate Goodrich: Well, it seems like it’s going to be a lot of money coming here to Texas, Greg. Of that $1.2 trillion with a T, the White House estimates that Texas will receive about $35.4 billion with a B over five years, which will mostly go to funding roads, bridges, pipes, ports, broadband access, and several other projects. The funds coming to Texas will be determined by the White House through the bill’s state allotment formula. So, it will be set out in formula. Texas will then also have the opportunity to apply for grants and a variety of different categories in addition to these funds.
It’s still unclear exactly how the money will be spent or what projects will be funded, but the dollars that have been allocated have already been set aside. Some of these projects include highway expansions and – very important for some and mentioned by Amanda above – increased access to broadband internet. This adds to the almost $500 million investment that the Texas Legislature made in broadband earlier this year. So, that is a great thing if you’re in one of these areas that’s been struggling with connectivity issues.
Another thing that this influx of money is set to do, and we’ve talked about this a lot already, is all things related to transportation – from expanding highways to paying for much-needed road repairs, which if you know, you know, to advancing existing transit plans this should lay the groundwork toward increasing transportation options for Texans who desperately need them. Locally, projects like Project Connect in Austin and METRONext in Houston are examples of the types of initiatives that should receive some of this increased funding investment.
Finally, the White House also estimates that $3.5 billion will be invested to weatherize the country’s energy infrastructure. So, that’s very important to us here in Texas. As you know, we suffered a devastating winter storm in February. It’s not immediately clear how much of that money is going to go to Texas or how those plans are going to mesh with the plans put forth by the Texas Legislature in this 87th legislative session, but still a lot of work to do on that front. A lot of Texans are hoping that they’re able to work that out, because winter is coming. There’s a lot of good for our state, and time will tell how it all gets allocated. We will definitely keep you updated, Greg.
Greg Lambert: All right. Appreciate that. So, Amanda Crouch and Kate Goodrich, thanks for coming in and giving us the update.
Amanda Crouch: Thanks for having us.
Kate Goodrich: Yeah, absolutely. Anytime.
The music is by Eve Searls.
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