The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), passed by Congress on Nov. 5, represents a strong start in upgrading the country’s core infrastructure. The five-year, $1 trillion dollar bill ($550 billion in new spending) will finance welcome investments in roads and bridges, rail, public transit, ports, the electric grid, water systems, and broadband.
The bill addresses some fundamental environmental justice challenges, and makes long-needed investments in infrastructure needs for Native American communities.
The bill also addresses some fundamental environmental justice challenges, and makes long-needed investments in infrastructure needs for Native American communities.
This includes $21 billion to remove pollution from the water and soil; a “Reconnecting Communities Program,” which would provide $1 billion in competitive grants to remove or retrofit highways that run through lower income neighborhoods; and $39 billion for public transit—the largest federal investment in public transit in American history.
The IIJA also allocates $11 billion for infrastructure needs in Indian Country, representing the largest investment tribal nations have seen in American history. For generations, water and sanitation construction, transportation enhancement, broadband deployment, energy development, climate resilience, and natural resource management have been infrastructure priorities for Native communities.
The IIJA works to meet these needs with $3.5 billion for the Indian Health Service Sanitation Facilities Construction Program, $3 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation Tribal Transportation Program, $2.5 billion to address congressionally-approved Indian water rights settlements, and $2 billion to expand broadband access on tribal lands and Hawaiian homelands.
The IIJA is only a down payment on what Congress should invest as we seek to build a resilient society.
The climate crisis shows how important it is to build greater resilience into the country’s infrastructure, and it is unfortunate that the IIJA doesn’t go further to make even larger investments in this arena. Two examples: the bill contains only $10-12 billion—a fraction of what will be needed—to upgrade the electrical grid to handle increased demand for wind and solar power. And the $15 billion allocated for removing lead pipes and service lines is well below the $45 billion proposed in the president’s original American Jobs Plan proposal.
Even with these shortcomings, however, it is clear that real progress is being made. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a “C-“ on its 2021 Report on America’s Infrastructure, (better than the “D” usually awarded), a strong indicator that the nation is going in the right direction. The IIJA is only a down payment on what Congress should invest as we seek to build a resilient society and accelerate the energy transition. FCNL will continue to advocate for policies that meet the challenge of strengthening our society while building a resilient and sustainable low carbon economy.