The gigantic federal infrastructure bill, which finally passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Biden, is going to provide enormous benefits, transforming our community and our state.
While the total size of the spending plan is $1.2 trillion, much of that is renewal of existing spending programs. But the new money in the bill is about $550 billion over the next five years. Think about that for a moment.
That is a lot of cash. It is going to buy a lot of concrete and steel, and a lot of electrical wire and broadband. It is going to allow Maryland and other states to speed up a lot of long-planned, long-overdue projects. It promises to make transportation safer and smoother.
Our state will get nearly $8 billion. The Capital News Service reported Maryland’s funds are expected to include:
• $4.1 billion for highway projects over five years.
• $1.7 billion for revitalizing almost a quarter of aging public transportation vehicles, and over $150 million to the Washington Metro Transit Authority to improve safety and make repairs over eight years.
• $844 million for improving water systems.
• $238 million to continue the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay over five years.
• $409 million for bridge replacement and repairs over five years.
• $200 million for expanding broadband coverage. This includes providing internet access to at least 148,000 Marylanders, most in rural areas, who do not have such service.
• $158 million for airport improvements over five years.
• $63 million for the expansion of an electric vehicle charging network over five years, to encourage the switch to electric vehicles.
The spending will generate “huge numbers” of new jobs in Maryland, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) told the news service.
“The job estimates that I’ve seen are in the hundreds of thousands,” he added.
Our country’s crumbling highways and bridges have been a national embarrassment for decades. Political leaders seemingly have talked about the need to upgrade roads, rails, seaports and airports forever, but it has been 40 years since the country last made a serious effort to address the problem.
In 2020, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Maryland a C grade on its Infrastructure Report Card, up slightly from the C-minus we received in 2011.
President Trump’s promise to spend $1 trillion to rebuild our infrastructure was a centerpiece of his successful 2016 campaign. But he could never get Congress to go along, even when Republicans controlled both houses.
President Biden was widely mocked during the summer and early fall as he struggled to win Republican support and hold together the Democratic party. It is often said that law making, like sausage making, is not a pretty process to watch. But Biden is ending his first year in office with a monumental victory.
All Maryland’s Democratic congressmen voted in support of the bill, but Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican in the delegation, opposed the measure. The day after the vote in the House, he tweeted: “Yesterday’s infrastructure bill added hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal debt. We have to stop spending our children and grandchildren’s money.”
That is deeply disappointing. Is Harris saying the government should never spend money on infrastructure, or is he saying he would support a tax increase to pay for it? Doubtful. It is just posturing.
We are pleased that 19 Republicans voted for the bill in the Senate and 13 supported it in the House. Those men and women put country before party, and they should be praised. Instead, they are getting vilified by the right-wing.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan knows what side of the issue he is on. Not only did he support the bill, he attended the signing ceremony with Biden at the White House.
“It truly is a bipartisan bill on something people have been talking about fixing for decades,” he said earlier. “This is going to help us get to some of the projects we had not yet been able to do.”
Once again, Hogan is right. This bill will improve the lives of Marylanders. It is a good day.