On Friday, President Joe Biden announced a $27 billion program to repair and upgrade roughly 15,000 bridges across America over the next five years in the biggest investment of its kind since the creation of the interstate highway system in the 1950s.
The funding will come from the $1 bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed into law this past November as a key part of his legislative agenda.
“These are investments our country has never fully made — now we are,” Biden said after rattling off a list that included clean water and fast internet for all, capping dangerous wells, and making the power grid more resilient to extreme weather changes.
“There’s a lot of talk about disappointments and things we haven’t gotten done — we’re going to get a lot of them done, I might add,” he said. “But this is something we did get done, and it’s of enormous consequence to the country.”
The need for infrastructure investment has long been on the political to-do list in Washington as the nation’s infrastructure has deteriorated and fallen behind that of many other economies.
“Modernizing America’s bridges will help improve safety, support economic growth, and make people’s lives better in every part of the country — across rural, suburban, urban and tribal communities,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement released Friday.
More than 45,000 bridges were are in “poor” condition as of 2020, according to the Department of Transportation. Many are not considered part of the federal interstate system and therefore often miss out on federal funding, instead relying on cash-strapped counties and states.
The $27 billion includes dedicated funding for these “off-system” bridges.
“People have written me about bridges they depend on,” Biden said in Friday’s speech. “One man told me that the bridge he traveled on every day is a tragedy waiting to happen.”
The White House issued a fact sheet in advance of Biden’s remarks that details how the administration is preparing to distribute infrastructure funds, including more than $240 million which will go to improve ports, which has been strained throughout the pandemic.
There are plans to build out 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles,$65 billion to bring high-speed internet to all parts of the U.S., $53 billion to modernize highways, and $3 billion to improve airports.
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to disburse $7.4 billion to upgrade water and sewer systems.
Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is tasked with managing the implementation of the infrastructure spending. He appeared with Biden on Friday and pledged to “deliver results on time, on task and on budget.”