Opinion: Commentary: Historic Federal Infrastructure Bill

Opinion: Commentary: Historic Federal Infrastructure Bill

Many benefits coming to Virginia

Exciting news came from our nation’s capital this week as the bipartisan $1 trillion Infrastructure Bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, is poised for final passage in Congress. This once-in-a-generation piece of legislation will invest $550 billion in new infrastructure spending across the nation and will create tens of thousands of jobs here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Senators Warner and Kaine, who worked tirelessly on this legislation, as well as the White House, released exciting data on how this legislation will deliver for Virginia.

This legislative package appropriates $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for rail, and $39 billion for public transit spread across the country. Of this funding, Virginia can expect to receive over the next five years $7 billion for highway programs and $537 million for bridge repairs and replacement, which could be used to fund long-awaited and much-needed projects across the Commonwealth. Here in Northern Virginia, the funding could be used towards projects like the Route 1 widening in Fairfax and Prince William counties which will soon be underway, and the possible extension of the future Fairfax County bus rapid transit line (BRT) into Prince William, which the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is currently studying. Other Northern Virginia projects that could potentially receive funding include the replacement of the American Legion Bridge and the I-495 Express extension from the bridge to the Dulles Toll Road, as well as the replacement of Long Bridge that will allow for future expansion of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Amtrak rail service.

Here in Virginia, as I’m sure you know first hand, 577 bridges and over 2,124 miles of highway are rated in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.7 percent in Virginia and on average, each driver pays $517 per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair. Over the next five years, under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Virginia would expect to receive $7 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $537 million for bridge replacement and repairs. Virginia also has the opportunity to compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of national funding in the bill dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities.

On average, Virginians who take public transportation spend an extra 72.2 percent of their time commuting, and non-White households are 1.6 times more likely to commute using public transportation. Ten percent of trains and other transit vehicles in Virginia are past their useful life.

Based on formula funding alone, Virginia would expect to receive $1.2 billion over five years to improve public transportation options across the Commonwealth.

Perhaps most importantly for us in Northern Virginia, the legislation commits $150 million annually over the next eight years for Metro’s capital improvements, a renewal of the funding agreement between the federal government, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.

The bill will also invest $7.5 billion across the country to build a network of electric vehicle chargers to facilitate long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options and address the climate crisis. Virginia would receive $106 million over the next five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state. Virginia will also have the opportunity to apply for a portion of the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to EV charging in the bill.

In addition to our recent landmark investments in broadband expansion here at home, under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Virginia will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state, including providing access to the at least 233,000 Virginians who currently lack it. And, under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, 1,908,000 or 23 percent of Virginians will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which will help low-income families afford internet access.

A big thanks is due to our two Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and to President Biden, for their hard work to pass this historic legislation that will make life far better for Virginians and create a generation of good union jobs, economic growth, and improved healthy sustainable transportation options for all of us.