On August 10th, the Senate passed the bipartisan $1 trillion Infrastructure Plan. If it is passed by the House, it would provide the largest federal investment in the nation’s transportation system ever. It would invest in building and repairing bridges and transportation infrastructure as well as invest in building drinking water and waste water infrastructure.
“This infrastructure package contains the most significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure in a generation and could yield crucial wins for the American people and construction industry,” said Michael Bellaman, ABC’s president and CEO. “It is promising to see progress made toward modernizing our nation’s roads, bridges, water infrastructure, transit, railways, ports and other critical infrastructure. This bipartisan accomplishment is something that has eluded Congress for decades and is proof of the possibilities when lawmakers choose compromise over conflict.” *
The bill will provide $110 billion for roads and bridges, $25 Billion for Airports, $17 Billion for Port infrastructure along with many other large projects. The billions included for building or improving schools and hospitals and building affordable housing alone would be a boon to the industry.
According to the White House:
The legislation will create good-paying, union jobs. With the President’s Build Back Better Agenda, these investments will add, on average, around 2 million jobs per year over the course of the decade, while accelerating America’s path to full employment and increasing labor force participation. **
The plan includes provisions for streamlining the permitting process by renewing and amending reforms originally found in the FAST-41 environmental review and permitting process.
FAST was enacted at the end of 2015 in order to reduce the timeline and burdens of environmental review for infrastructure projects. It was initially set to expire in 2022 but will now be made permanent.
Under the new plan, project permitting would face a timeline of two years, or the Permitting Council will have to provide a valid explanation for the delay. It also incentivizes federal agencies to make a record of their decision within 90 days of the submission of a final environmental impact statement. A single interagency environmental impact statement would be mandated unless the lead agency can provide good reason that there needs to be more. The Senate version of the bill also makes it harder for government agencies to delay the permitting process.
All of the changes to FAST will make it easier and faster to clear hurdles that regularly add to delays and higher costs for typical infrastructure projects. This should make it easier for the construction industry to plan projects and keep costs from running out of control.
Will it Pass the House?
The bill has been hung up in the House by 9 progressive Democrats who insist that the bill only be passed along with a much larger bill meant to address an expansion of Medicare, a large investment in renewable energy, as well as childcare and elder care. Pelosi has called the House back early to try to resolve the issue.
The construction industry widely supports the Infrastructure Plan. It is certain to create jobs for many years to come with new large projects and will keep the industry growing. Many suppliers and ancillary businesses will see big gains in revenue as well. Hopefully Washington can finally push the plan through and begin a long needed phase of investment in our crumbling infrastructure.