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US House passes $1 trillion infrastructure bill

November 8, 2021

The U.S. House approved a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes billions of dollars to improve the nation’s transportation networks, water and power systems and Internet connections.

The infrastructure bill includes about $16 billion for “major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs,” but that have big economic benefits, according to the White House.

The legislation includes least $12.3 billion for New Jersey’s roads, bridges and transit, which would include billions of dollars that can be tapped to build the Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River, NJ.com reported

The vote was 228-206, with 13 Republicans joining all but six Democrats in voting yes.

The Senate passed the infrastructure measure in August, but House leaders rebuffed demands from moderate lawmakers to take up the legislation without also voting on a separate bill that would fight climate change, expand health care and increase funding for child care and preschool, the Washington Post reported.

In addition to new spending on highways and bridges, the broader infrastructure package includes what the White House calls the nation’s biggest investment in transit and clean energy transmission in U.S. history, as well as billions for replacing lead pipes and extending broadband. It includes investments in passenger rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, and programs to address past environmental damage, reduce road deaths and improve airports and waterways.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called it “the most significant investment in jobs and infrastructure in my lifetime,” saying the bill will “rebuild and replace infrastructure that is decades, or even a century, old.”

There would be more than $60 billion set aside for Amtrak, some of which could fund new passenger routes, including through New Jersey to connect Scranton and the Lehigh Valley with New York City.

Stephen Sigmund, spokesman for the Gateway Program, said the first two projects — a planned Portal North bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey and a new tunnel under the Hudson River — have financing plans in place and are not dependent on the infrastructure bill. Still, Sigmund added, the billions in additional funds the bill will provide to the U.S. Transportation Department’s Capital Investment Grants program will be “a great help to the project.”

Later phases of the Gateway Program, including far-reaching track improvements and other bridge projects, could benefit from the megaprojects fund and other large pots of money in the bill, Sigmund said.

The critical Northeast rail corridor “narrows down to this old straw that gets crimped in various places,” Sigmund said. “The whole idea is to establish a four-track system between New York and New Jersey, which would replace the current two-track system — one track in, one track out — which is 110 years old.”

The bulk of transportation funds in the infrastructure bill will flow through existing programs, in which states get money according to federal formulas and have discretion over how they use the money. It will allow states to make progress on routine projects, such as repaving roads, upgrading bridges and buying new buses.

 

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