WASHINGTON (AP) — Six months after President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package was signed, the government said Monday there are 4,300 projects underway with more than $110 billion in funding announced – milestones that the administration is publicly announcing as medium-term policy intensifies.
Senior White House adviser Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans, said the roads, bridges and other projects are laying “the foundation for tremendous growth in the future.” Landrieu said Biden and members of his administration made more than 125 trips to highlight bipartisan infrastructure investments. He declined to predict how well the storytelling would resonate with voters as construction begins.
“I think if the Americans back down, we’re all going to have to admit that for 50 years we’ve had the need to do it and we haven’t found the will or the way to do it,” Landrieu told reporters. . He added that it was a “wonderful down payment” on the country’s infrastructure needs, which total around $7 trillion.
The administration made a strategic calculation that getting results would help Democrats retain control of the House and Senate in this year’s election. The infrastructure was a rare source of bipartisan unity as Biden struck a deal that attracted several Republican senators. The law contains funds to expand internet access and replace lead water pipes and for rail and transit projects and investments to combat climate change.
When Biden signed the law on Nov. 15, he promised voters that “America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better.”
Six months later, the stock market is down, inflation is near a 40-year high, Russia’s war in Ukraine is driving up energy costs, and many Americans are pessimistic about health economy. There’s an open question whether voters will reward infrastructure projects whose benefits are years away under what Biden has described as an “infrastructure decade.”
“All we can do is tell the story of what we do, and the impact that will have on the mid-games will be what it will be,” Landrieu said.
Of the $110 billion announced so far, $52.5 billion is for federal highway funding this fiscal year and $20.5 billion for public transit. There is still $27 billion over five years for bridges, as well as funds for safety, rural roads, airports, ports, drought resilience and other programs.
Infrastructure spending is also an area where political leaders will have to share the credit among themselves. Governors and mayors are responsible for 90% of statutory expenditures, while the federal government accounts for 10% of expenditures. The administration has actively tried to help state and local governments fight over the money, Landrieu noting that even Republican critics are generally eager to receive the funding.
“A really smart person said, you know, even the people who voted don’t want the dough,” he said. “It’s as close to consensus in my political life as I’ve seen.”
Last week, the Commerce Department called on states to begin the process of submitting their plans for universal high-speed Internet access. Biden also took steps to maximize the likelihood of building materials being made domestically as the money started flowing out.
Landrieu said the two biggest challenges in coordinating spending are offering technical assistance to small governments and enabling workforce development to fill the jobs created. There are 7.6 million construction jobs in the United States, with employers announcing about 400,000 openings in the sector.
Landrieu said these challenges are also “an incredible opportunity to achieve something that we collectively haven’t been very good at in the country.”
If the government is successful with coordination and future administrations follow suit, Landrieu said, “America is going to grow exponentially faster and winning the 21st century won’t be a challenge for us.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.