Landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Passes Congress

The American utility contracting industry achieved its biggest win in decades in early November, as Congress passed H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion core infrastructure spending package representing the largest federal investment in American infrastructure in decades.

NUCA’s CEO Doug Carlson expressed the industry’s thoughts in his press statement issued immediately after the bill passed the U.S. House late in the night of November 5. “Never before has the American utility construction industry been given by Congress resources of this magnitude to improve thousands of communities across America,” exclaimed Carlson.

This bill is a big deal for all of us in this industry. Out of $550 billion in new spending, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act invests over $55 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure, $42 billion in broadband construction, $110 billion in surface transportation projects, $73 billion in modernizing the electric grid, $7 billion in building a nationwide electric vehicle charging network, and billions more in other badly needed programs, representing one of the largest federal infrastructure investments in American history.

This crucial bill also reforms certain permitting processes used by the construction industry, including codification of recent “One Federal Decision” permitting reforms, and it imposes higher broadband speed standards on much of the new construction to ensure Americans have access to the connections they need in the modern digital economy.

President Biden signed the bill into law during a White House ceremony held November 15. NUCA’s leadership publicly recognized two House infrastructure leaders, committee chairmen Reps. Peter DeFazio (T&I) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (Commerce), for their support during this long fight to achieve this extraordinary NUCA victory. Both men fought hard for this bill and our industry members throughout this fight, and NUCA is grateful for their support.

So, what’s next? Congress has given states and the executive branch a great deal of flexibility in how to distribute the funding over the next five years. The majority of funding will flow through existing federal formulas to states and localities that have statutory discretion over the direction of funds. State and local agencies first need to decide what projects to pursue with this federal largess, but some jurisdictions have calculated the money they will receive and are ready to put it to work. Each state will be different.

The accompanying graphic shows the minimum amount of funding that each state can expect to receive as a result of the bill’s passage. Billions of additional funding will be distributed through a number of competitive grant programs, including most of the over $40B in funding for broadband construction.

In the coming months, NUCA will be providing additional information as to how and when this funding will reach the market. For more information about this landmark legislation, be sure to check out the Advocacy section of NUCA’s website, nuca.com/advocacy.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act won’t solve all the problems facing American infrastructure, but it is a long-overdue historic investment that will create thousands of new jobs and help ensure millions of Americans have access to modern and reliable utility infrastructure.

Despite these historic levels of investment, more work remains to be done. For water infrastructure, the amount of expected needs remains in the hundreds of billions, and it will take at least an additional $30B in investment to replace every lead drinking water pipe in America alone. Going forward, NUCA will continue to advocate for additional investments and smart policies that will help our industry work to bring American utility infrastructure into the future.

But looking at the bottom line, 2021 will be known as the year America started to rebuild its national infrastructure systems. “This bill and its funding resources are an extraordinary achievement,” said Carlson. We’re eager to begin work on building the subsurface infrastructure strengthening our nation’s economic foundations of the next 100 years,” Carlson concluded.

Zachary P. Perconti, of Wyman Associates, is a registered lobbyist for NUCA.

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