Washington policymakers this week addressed new initiatives to disburse $1.2 trillion in federal infrastructure investment, including agency spending that will support production of low-carbon construction materials. (White House Fact Sheet, Feb. 15)
Biden Administration Efforts
- President Biden yesterday traveled to Ohio to emphasize how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) signed into law last November is funding new roads, bridges and railways while also protecting the environment. (Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 12, 2021 and Reuters, Jan. 17)
- The White House on Tuesday announced new government-wide actions to support clean manufacturing for low-carbon production of steel, aluminum, and concrete needed as materials for electric vehicles, solar panels, buildings, and transportation projects.
- A “Buy Clean Task Force” includes efforts by the General Services Administration (GSA) to encourage best practices for reducing “embodied emissions” of construction materials in federal buildings. (Reuters and MarketWatch, Feb. 15)
- The administration also launched “Infrastructure School” this week – a series of webinars to provide an in-depth look into IIJA investment categories ranging from roads to rail to mass transit to broadband. Each webinar will cover an infrastructure asset class described in the Administration’s recently released Bipartisan Infrastructure Law guidebook. (Usetinc, Feb. 15 and Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 4)
Transportation Spending Controversies
- Billions from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for transportation projects are on hold, dependent on Congress reaching a deal on an “omnibus” appropriations bill to fund the U.S. government though Sept. 30. Meanwhile, the types of highways projects that should primarily benefit from federal funding is becoming a contentious issue. (E&E News, Feb. 7 and BGov, Feb.9)
- The Biden Administration in December issued guidance advising states to prioritize IIJA transportation dollars for maintaining and improving existing highways – before adding new lanes.
- In a letter last month to President Biden, a group of 16 Republican governors asked for greater flexibility. The letter noted, “A clear example of federal overreach would be an attempt by the Federal Highway Administration to limit state widening projects.”
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) last week countered the Biden Administration’s guidance. They advised U.S. governors that the IIJA has no authority to “dictate how states should use their federal formula funding, nor prioritizes public transit or bike paths over new roads and bridges.” (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9)
- Additionally, the Biden administration on Feb. 10 released a plan to distribute $5 billion in formula funding to states for EV chargers. States would first have to present charging network “deployment plans” to the US-DOT before receiving federal money. (CNBC, Feb. 10)
- In Congress, the economic impact of infrastructure investing was the focus of a Tuesday hearing held by a House Ways and Means subcommittee. (W&M news release, Feb. 5)
Transit industry experts, state transportation officials, and other witnesses testified before the subcommittee on the importance of the IIJA’s funding to transportation infrastructure improvements, economic growth and public health.
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