Paving the Way for the Future: The New Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Updated: Jan 13, 2022
The Biden administration's infrastructure bill dedicates $110 billion to the construction and repair of highways and roads. (David Martin/Unsplash)
President Biden has implemented a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill which, according to a statement from the White House, aims to “grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good jobs, and make our economy more sustainable, resilient, and just.” Aside from being a huge victory for working class citizens, the passing of this bill has marked a monumental time in politics in which the two primary parties, Democrats and Republicans, have been able to simultaneously vote on a bill.
Infrastructure and Its History
Infrastructure is defined as the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (eg. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise. Infrastructure is a necessity in our society and requires much money, maintenance, and planning. Society has relied on infrastructure for centuries, but until 1951, the word “infrastructure” was never used: General Eisenhower and his staff discussed how to improve life for the military troops while they fought off the Soviet Union, though infrastructure at this time focused mainly on strengthening the military.
While stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers of Europe (SHAPE) Eisenhower and his staff coined the word “infrastructure,” based on French counterparts working with them. The word was then picked up by journalists. One journalist who gave one of the first definitions of infrastructure described it as “supporting air bases, lines of communication, supply depots, and other facilities an army needs to live and fight.” Originally, it was not meant to apply to society as a whole, but solely as a military operation; however, this definition can still relate to the types of infrastructure implemented in cities as supplying the needs people require to live.
The last major infrastructure bill was passed in 2015, in which President Obama put $305 billion towards transportation, with a particular emphasis on repairing and installing highways. Additionally, Obama also reserved some money to be put into the rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law. The bill President Biden recently passed marks the first time in 50 years that this much money has been put into the infrastructure of America. It focuses exclusively on the construction and repairing of structures.
President Biden has planned several new projects that will be affecting the overall population through his new infrastructure bill. While he has many construction-based plans, money is also being allotted for workers. Money will be invested in the work field of caregivers, as Biden believes that caregivers (most of whom are women of color), have been undervalued and underpaid. He plans to create new and better job opportunities for them within their communities.
Environmental protection is another prominent component of the bill. One aspect that will be new for many communities is the implementation of electric school buses. $7.5 billion will be put toward zero or low emission buses that will be distributed to districts across the country, including rural and Tribal areas. This $7.5 billion is going to be split up evenly between three different transportation methods: zero emission buses, low emission buses, and ferries.
Since there will be more electric transportation methods, thousands of electric vehicle chargers are going to be installed along highways, rural communities, and disadvantaged neighborhoods. This construction is the first government funded building of electric vehicle chargers, totaling at $7.5 billion dollars to build chargers at shops, work buildings, and in neighborhoods. This will ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to receive clean and effective public transportation.
In response to the recent power outages in Texas, the bill also invests $73 billion in upgrading and installing thousands of miles of new transmission lines. Money will be spent to fund the use of cleaner power sources and the research of clean power to assist efforts in halting the escalating dangers of climate change. As the Biden administration works on reducing pollution, part of the bill’s money will be allocated to new transits and rails that produce lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to power grids with greater efficiency, $65 billion will be put into high speed and reliable internet to ensure every American has access to reliable internet sources. This is an important step for many workers, students, and communities in general, as internet access has proven to be of great importance and necessity in this age.
The investment of $66 billion will be the first largest investment into Amtrak since it was founded more than 50 years ago. The funds will be focused on maintenance, which has been on a backlog due to a devastating storm from nine years ago. Most of the money will be going into the modernization of the Northeast corridor and to bringing the rails outside of the northeast and mid-Atlantic areas. The money is then to be split five ways as grants that will each be spent on slightly different partnerships. As transportation is the most effective way the economy works, $110 billion will be put into constructing, rebuilding, and rehabilitating bridges and highways. As part of the construction or repairing of these paths, safety for all users is emphasized, whether involving cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, or drivers, covering anyone who uses roads as their main way of transportation.
Another key aspect of the bill is the creation of new jobs. Biden has estimated to employ 2 million people each year for the next decade with this new legislation. Increased employment could drop poverty and unemployment levels and boost productivity throughout the country. As of July 2021, 8.702 million people in the United States were unemployed, but the Biden administration hopes this number will decrease with the implementation of the bill.
Transmission lines, which are essential for electricity, receive some of the funds of the infrastructure bill, an effort made especially necessary by the recent Texas power outage crisis. (Wu Yi/Unsplash)
A Bipartisan Effort
While the nation deals with immense division and polarization, it’s not every day that 100 legislators of different political ideologies can see eye-to-eye on a bill. While some opposition remained, more than half of the Senate were in support, passing the bill with a 69–30 vote.
“Today, we proved that democracy can still work,” Biden announced, following the bill’s passing. Although many Republicans opposed the bill, or did not support it all the way through, many Democrats pushed for its passage. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed, “I said yesterday we could do this the easy way or hard way.” Although both parties are used to butting heads, the collective effort in passing this bill seems to indicate a future possibility of more bipartisan cooperation.
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