Senate votes to advance bill with $550B for aging US infrastructure

The U.S. is one step closer to a massive, much-needed infrastructure spending package. 

The Senate voted Wednesday to advance a bipartisan bill, which includes $550 billion in new federal funding for infrastructure. The bill will now enter a process of debates and amendments. The bill would inject funding into transportation, utilities and broadband spending. Senators voted to advance the package 67-32, with 17 Republicans joining all 48 Senate Democrats — and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats  in favor of advancing it.

The $550 billion figure is far lower than the multi-trillion-dollar American Jobs Plan championed by President Joe Biden. Republicans turned their nose up at the massive price tag for Biden’s plan. Though the bipartisan bill is cheaper, it still represents the largest federal investment in public transit ever and the largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system, according to the White House.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function,” the president said ahead of the vote, AP reported. “We will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”

The bills current measures — which are still subject to change — include, according to the White House:

  • $110 billion for roads, bridges and other major infrastructure projects.
  • $66 billion to eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog and modernize rail service in the Northeast corridor.
  • $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement and rehabilitation.
  • $25 billion for airport project needs, including repair and maintenance backlogs and modernization and emission reduction.
  • $17.5 billion for projects too complex for traditional funding programs.
  • $17 billion for port infrastructure projects.
  • $11 billion for transportation safety.
  • $1 billion on community reconnection, often among disproportionately Black neighborhoods divided by highways and other infrastructure.

The bill also includes measures to support electric vehicles, clean drinking water and bring high speed internet to millions of Americans.

After the announcement Wednesday, Tom Smith, executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, commended the much-needed bipartisan agreement. The ASCE gave the U.S.’s infrastructure a C- in its 2021 report card, indicating the nation’s aging framework is not up to snuff. Additionally, 171.5 million vehicles cross over 45,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges in poor condition every day, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

That poor infrastructure impacts both business and citizens. Households in the U.S. continue to lose $3,300 a year due to aging infrastructure, Smith said, and businesses know that solid infrastructure lays the foundation to be competitive in a global economy.

“We commend these Senators for prioritizing infrastructure through a bipartisan agreement,” Smith said in a statement shared with Construction Dive. “Now we urge the full Senate to pass the cloture motion so this crucial legislation can proceed.”

Clarification: This story was updated to make clear the amount of new funding included in the current infrastructure package.

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