From EV chargers to high-speed internet, impact of infrastructure bill will be felt for decades

A 2021 bill is allowing the U.S. government to build a network of EV chargers while replacing lead pipes and crumbling roads and bridges.
Biden Gun Safety
Posted at 6:18 AM, Jun 26, 2024

Since President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, nearly $500 billion in federal funding has been announced, with that money supporting over 57,500 projects nationwide. But we're just starting to see what the full impact of that law will be.

The law, backed by 32 Republicans and nearly every Democrat in Congress, tackles a wide range of issues. Some funds are focused on replacing lead pipes to ensure families and communities have safe drinking water. Multiple projects are working to expand access to reliable broadband internet in areas like rural Georgia and even downtown Chicago. Then there's money to expand the nation's network of electric vehicle chargers — more than $7 billion for that alone.

During an interview with Scripps News, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg explained how the Biden administration is deciding where to install new charging stations.

"There are areas where it's just not profitable, at least not yet, for the companies to put them in," Buttigieg said. "That's where we're working with the states to make sure that whether we're talking about apartment buildings in cities or whether we're talking about those long stretches of road, that you know there's going to be a charger when you need it."

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The American Road and Transportation Builders Association is a trade group that represents individuals, businesses and stakeholders involved in the transportation industry. ARTBA chief economist Alison Black says the impact of the bill is widespread.

"We'll see over the longer run improved mobility, better access across freight corridors, and also just improvements to our economy and quality of life as our infrastructure network is improved," Black said.

State and local governments have a lot of control in determining where and how the infrastructure money is spent. A Scripps News analysis of the more than 57,500 projects finds the biggest single investment so far is in Baltimore. Over $4.7 billion will help replace the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac tunnel. Nine million Amtrak passengers ride through that tunnel every year, and it is the biggest bottleneck in the entire Northeast corridor.

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While the initial construction phases will create thousands of good jobs, analysts say the law will also have a positive impact on the American economy.

"Those workers [go] out. They're going to get coffee. They're buying meals. They're purchasing clothing. That creates a ripple effect. And then longer term, as these infrastructure improvements are completed, you have the increased mobility, making it easier for freight traffic to get from point A to point B, and all of those things help reduce costs for the American consumer and improve our quality of life," Black explained.

Soon, Americans will start to see current construction projects wrap up and new ones will get underway. But Black said this law is more like a minimum initial investment in infrastructure, and she said Congress will have to decide whether to keep up the spending with future legislation.