Washington Report: Infrastructure!

by Patty Power, ACPA Washington Advocate


Infrastructure Week has finally arrived! After years of lobbying in support of federal investments, leadership in Washington finally heard the construction industry and its many partners. The $1.2 trillion federal investment will be matched by significant state and local government investment, increasing the economic benefit over time. President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law on November 15, 2021.

The bill passed the Senate in August with strong bipartisan support. The bill passed in the House of Representatives without amendment earlier in November, also with bipartisan support. As discussed in the last issue of this magazine, the IIJA authorizes and funds $1.2 trillion of federal infrastructure programs over the next eight years. Overall, the federal funding provided in this legislation is at least 30 percent greater than the historic funding levels, hence the comparisons to the Eisenhower Federal highway program in the 1950s.

Executive Order 14052

Before signing the bill into law, President Biden signed Executive Order 14052, “Implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” The Executive Order creates a new Infrastructure Implementation Council, to be co-chaired by the president’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, and the new “White House Infrastructure Coordinator,” former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Members of the Infrastructure Implementation Council will include the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Labor, and Transportation, and the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Personal Management, along with other senior presidential advisers. This approach signals that a wide range of interests will be considered in distributing these funds and that cabinet departments beyond the Transportation Department will have a voice in project selection. We will watch how this process develops so as to provide you with guidance about project selection for federal funding.

The Programs

Here are the programs most likely to benefit your business directly:

  • Federal Highway Administration’s Bridge Grant Program is a new competitive grant program funded at $3.265 billion over the next five years to rehabilitate or replace bridges, including culverts. Half of the funding is reserved for large projects costing at least $50 million.

  • Federal Highway Administration’s new Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection and Construction Formula Program funded at $27.5 billion. These funds will be distributed to states by a formula based on bridge condition. The projects will be funded 100 percent with federal dollars.

  • Federal Highway Administration’s various road programs totaling over $134 billion over the next five years to be distributed under the existing formula to State Departments of Transportation and through competitive grants. These federal funds will be matched by state and local funds and will create an economic impact greater than this number.

  • Federal Transit Administration’s record-setting funding levels will include funding for rail and bus stations, as well as for road construction projects.

  • Department of Transportation’s National Infrastructure Project Assistance Program will provide single- or multiyear grants to projects generating national or regional economic, mobility or safety. Eligible projects include highway or bridge projects, freight intermodal or freight rail projects, railway-highway grade separation or elimination projects, intercity passenger rail projects and certain public transportation projects.

  • INFRA ($3.2 billion) and RAISE ($7.5 billion) are competitive grant programs managed by the Transportation Department. INFRA supports highway and rail projects of regional and national economic significance. RAISE funds local and regional surface transportation projects capped at $25 million and distributed evenly between urban and rural communities.

  • Airports, inter-city rail, and water infrastructure projects were also funded at historic levels.

  • IILA increases the current cap on these Surface Transportation Private Activity Bonds from $15 billion to $30 billion, which will allow local governments to double their investments in local infrastructure projects. Bottom line is that the IIJA will fund a significant number of construction projects that will require concrete to be placed efficiently and effectively by concrete pumps. It is time to get ready!

Workforce Development

Beyond creating new construction jobs, this legislation also addresses workforce development needs. The legislation creates two new workforce development, training, and education programs that may create opportunities for concrete pumpers at the state level. The legislation allows states greater flexibility to address surface transportation workforce development, training and education needs, including activities that address current workforce gaps, such as work on construction projects. The IIJA also permits states to obligate funds for pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and career opportunities for on-the-job training and vocational school support.

ACPA will continue to monitor the implementation of this historic funding. The formula funds will begin to flow to the states this month, allowing states to work through their priority lists. Plan to be busy next construction season!

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