Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Delivers Optimism for Transportation Industry

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Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt PC

Those of you working in the transportation, ports, and maritime industry have a lot to look forward to as America’s roads, railways, ports, and other transportation infrastructure are expected to see improvements now that Congress passed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, H.R. 3684. President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law today, releasing $550 billion in new appropriations that will reach almost every aspect of our transportation system over the next five years, including roads, bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, and navigable waterways, as well as broadband and energy infrastructure. 

What HR 368 means for the transportation, ports, and maritime industry

Ports

More than $17 billion in new spending will fund waterway and coastal infrastructure, inland waterway improvements, port infrastructure, and land ports of entry through the Army Corps, DOT, Coast Guard, GSA, and DHS. The funding includes $5.15 billion for previously authorized projects not yet funded.  Additional funding is specifically set aside for navigation, inland waterways, aquatic ecosystem restoration, environmental infrastructure, shore protection, and remote and subsistence harbor projects of particular interest in Alaska. 

The Department of Transportation’s Port Infrastructure Development Program and Marine Highways Program will receive $455 million per year for five years. This will fuel substantial improvements to port facilities on America’s coasts and rivers.

Airports will receive $25 billion for an Airport Improvement Program to fund grants for runways, gates, and taxiways, as well as and improvements to terminals, concessions, multimodal connections, and air traffic control.

According to a White House summary, the resulting modern, resilient, and sustainable port, airport, and freight infrastructure will support U.S. ‎competitiveness by removing bottlenecks, expediting commerce, and reducing the environmental ‎impacts on neighboring communities.

Roads and Transportation

According to the White House, “one in five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of our highways and major roads and 45,000 bridges are in poor condition.”  The bill directs $110 billion to roads, bridges, and related projects to alleviate that problem. Roughly $36 billion will go toward repairing and replacing bridges. Another $11 billion will fund transportation safety programs. Congress also authorized a $7.5 billion boost to the grant program that supports surface transportation projects.   

Rail

The bill provides $66 billion in new spending to address the infrastructure needs of the United States rail network that carries more than 1.8 billion tons of freight and over 32.5 million passengers each year. It includes $4.75 billion for maintenance, replacement, and repairs of public transport buses and railways.  Some of this will fund the Amtrak National Network, expand intercity passenger rail service, and increase funding for freight rail and safety at rail-highway grade crossings.  A Capital Investment Grant program will invest $8 billion in new and expanded commuter and light rail, bus, and ferry service.

Alaska

According to Alaska’s congressional delegation members, which voted unanimously in favor of the Act, the bill provides $3.5 billion in federal highway funding for Alaska over five years, and $225 million to address more than 140 Alaska bridges considered “structurally deficient.” Funding may also help improve a portion of the Alaska Highway in Canada between the Alaska border and Haines Junction, and the Haines Cutoff. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities estimates the bill may increase its funding by 50% over five years. Money is also marked for airport improvements in Anchorage and beyond. Alaska ports will benefit from $250 million for remote and subsistence harbor construction and a portion of $2.25 billion marked for the Port Infrastructure Development Program.  

Aaron Klein, an infrastructure expert at the Brookings Institution, said, “If implemented successfully, [the bill] can change the long-term fabric of the American economy and society.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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