The Senate Agrees on an Infrastructure Deal! What It Means for Utility, Heavy Highway, and Transportation Construction

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC
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On July 28, 2021, the Senate voted 67-32 to advance a $550 billion infrastructure package to a final vote. The vote culminates months of negotiation to draw bi-partisan support for a compromised infrastructure deal of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan (AJP), which proposed investing $2 trillion in the country’s infrastructure, utility, and transportation systems over the next eight years.

What is in the Compromised Infrastructure Package?

If made into law, the package will provide:

  • $110 billion for roads, bridges, and other major projects
  • $73 billion to improve power infrastructure and the electric grid
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, including funds to address Amtrak’s backlog of maintenance and repairs, and to expand passenger rail service to new areas
  • $65 billion for expanding and improving broadband access
  • $55 billion to replace lead pipes and services lines
  • $39 billion for public transit systems
  • $46 billion for states and municipalities to improve resiliency and prevent damage from wildfires, flooding, droughts, and impacts of climate change
  • $25 billion for airports
  • $21 billion to clean up pollution including abandoned wells and mines, and Superfund sites
  • $17 billion for ports and waterways
  • $11 billion for highways and pedestrian safety programs
  • $7.5 billion to construct electric vehicle charging stations
  • $2.5 billion to transition schools busses to zero-emission
  • $1 billion to reconnect communities that had previously been divided by highways and other infrastructure/transportation construction

Although the compromise plan does not cover all that the AJP proposed, it still provides historic levels of infrastructure spending. As a comparison, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 kicked off constructing 41,000 miles of interstate highways across the country with $26 billion in funding. In today’s dollars, after adjusting for inflation, this sum comes to approximately $250 billion—half of what the compromise plan proposes to spend.

Although the Senate vote takes a big step in the right direction to increase infrastructure and transportation funding significantly, many hurdles remain to full passage. First, at the time of the vote, the 1,000-page bill’s text was still being written and had not been circulated Senate-wide. In a rare Sunday session, the bi-partisan supporters of the bill released the text of the bill, which is now being reviewed by the full Senate and will likely spur the introduction of amendments. Second, once the bill is written, and assuming it is ultimately passed in the Senate, the House of Representatives will also need to approve it. As part of Cohen Seglias’ construction-industry focus, we will continue to monitor the bill text, any amendments, and further developments as the legislative bodies take final votes on this important package with an eye to the impact on the construction industry.

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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