Statement On The Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act

. . . . Congressional Record

Once again, the Senate has proven that infrastructure is – as it always has been – a bipartisan issue.  The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act offers a once-in-a-generation vision for America’s infrastructure that is long overdue.  This bipartisan infrastructure package makes the largest federal investment in public transit, passenger rail, and bridges in more than 50 years. 

Gone are the days when “infrastructure” has meant only bridges, highways, roads, and rail.  While we need to invest in all of those areas, states like Vermont have infrastructure needs that also include climate resiliency, broadband and renewable energy.  That is exactly what this sweeping infrastructure package does.

The need for action in Vermont is clear.  It is no secret that Vermont’s infrastructure is aging.  For decades, infrastructure in Vermont has suffered from a systemic lack of investment.  Vermont has more than 2,700 bridges, 570 miles of freight railroad, 14,000 miles of public road – and an overall C grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for the condition of these facilities.  There are 66 bridges and over 666 miles of highway in the state that are in poor condition and need of repair.  When it comes to storm water and wastewater infrastructure, Vermont’s report card is even more dismal, receiving a D+ grade from ASCE, an unacceptable reality as our communities continue to see the impacts of climate change and extreme weather. With the passage of this indispensable infrastructure package, that will all change.  The State of Vermont is expected to receive over $1.5 billion in formulaic funds to repair highways and bridges and also install a network of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state.

This desperately needed infrastructure package will help repair Vermont’s roads and bridges, while also creating good-paying jobs.  It provides significant investments and makes key programmatic changes to competitive discretionary infrastructure programs to make more these Federal revenue streams more accessible to small, rural states like Vermont. 

The bill tackles the challenge of bringing broadband to the 19 million Americans, including 60,000 Vermont homes, in rural areas and other parts of the country that still lack access to quality, high-speed internet service.  Not only will the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act buildout broadband in unserved areas, it permanently establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit program created through the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act renaming it the Affordable Connectivity Benefit program.  This program will provide a $30 per month voucher for low-income families to use toward any internet service plan of their choosing.  It builds on the EBB program by expanding eligibility to help more low-income households, while also making it more sustainable for taxpayers. 

Importantly, this package will also make significant down payments on climate resiliency initiatives to make Vermont more prepared to tackle the climate crisis, which has for too long been overlooked.  Later this month will be the 10-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene.  The devastation that occurred as the storm swept through our state showed that we must build back better to make our communities and critical infrastructure more resilient to extreme climate events like Tropical Storm Irene.  And anyone who doubts the obvious link between our infrastructure needs and the climate crisis need only look at what happened to Texas’s energy grid during the winter, or the devastating heat wave and drought taking place across the West this summer, where record temperatures have literally melted power lines and buckled roads.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience programs that are both pragmatic and forward-thinking.  It includes record amounts of funding for weatherization assistance to reduce energy costs for low-income households, makes the largest investment in clean energy transmission and electric vehicle infrastructure in history, funds the electrification of thousands of school and transit buses across the country, and establishes new programs to overhaul our energy grid and rapidly accelerate development and deployment of battery storage technology.

The bill amounts to the single largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, including dedicated funding to replace lead service lines and address the PFAS contamination in our communities, and provides an additional $40 million for water quality projects in the Lake Champlain Basin.  Taken together, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will leave every community in Vermont better prepared to face the challenges of the 21st  Century and help restore American leadership in the fight against climate change.

This significant legislative and stimulus package shows what can be done when we all work together in the Senate.  This hasn’t been easy, but it’s important to Vermont and to our country, and thanks to these efforts, we will be able to repair roads and bridges, build electric charging stations and buildout broadband throughout the country.  I hope that the Senate will pass this legislation today, and that the House of Representatives will soon consider this legislation, so President Biden can sign this historic infrastructure investment into law.

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