No Bragging Rights for Passing the Infrastructure Act?

You'd think the passage of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure act would convey bragging rights for Democratic congress members facing competitive midterm elections today. Ironically, Republicans who opposed the bill are taking credit.

3 minute read

November 8, 2022, 9:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

U.S. Capital

Jeri Bland / Shutterstock

Readers are undoubtedly familiar with the top issues facing voters on Election Day: the economy and inflation, crime, abortion access, threats to democracy, and immigration among them. Infrastructure is rarely, if ever mentioned.

Yet, “Democrats facing voters on Tuesday can boast of a landmark achievement from their two years of running Washington — a $1.2 trillion infrastructure law that promises to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges, expand broadband service, put more electric vehicles on the road and provide millions of Americans with cleaner drinking water,” write Tanya Snyder, Jordan Wolman, Annie Snider, John Hendel and Eleanor Mueller for POLITICO two days before Election Day.

Biden signed the infrastructure law on Nov. 15, 2021 [related Planetizen post], after it passed with broad bipartisan support in the Senate and just 13 GOP votes in the House. The measure, H.R. 3684 (117), was one of a series of big-spending legislative packages that have marked his administration — including a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill [American Rescue Plan Act], $52 billion in semiconductor and research subsidies and $300 billion for climate and energy initiatives [Inflation Reduction Act].

Polls show most voters have no idea Congress even passed the legislation — let alone that it’s already set to provide tens of billions of dollars to projects such as rail tunnels under the Hudson River, Everglades restoration work in Florida or a bridge replacement in Tennessee. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill have been quick to offer praise and claim credit when their local projects get a share of the cash.

A major reason for the lack of attention to the bill's passage is the time it takes to break ground on specific projects. Furthermore, the authors note that “[m]any of the spending decisions will rest with Republican governors who oppose Biden’s push to use much of the money for projects that counteract climate change or redress the legacies of racial discrimination.”

To date, Washington has pledged just $38 billion of the law’s $1.2 trillion to thousands of individual projects, including $69 million to reconfigure the shoreline at the Port of Alaska in Anchorage and a $25 million bridge replacement in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Partisan Divisions

“One partisan flashpoint was a December 2021 memo from the Federal Highway Administration that pressed state transportation projects [pdf] to avoid spending their new infrastructure money on highway widening, saying they should make it a priority to repair and upgrade existing roads instead,” write Snyder, Wolman, Snider, Hendel and Mueller.

The administration argued this approach will make transportation safer while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sixteen GOP governors lambasted that effort in a letter to Biden as “a clear example of federal overreach [pdf],” noting that the guidance includes restrictions that were intentionally left out of the final bill.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg later admitted under fire from Republicans in congressional hearings that the memo’s suggestions weren’t binding.

As for Congressional Republicans who voted against the bill's passage taking credit for infrastructure projects in their districts, they assert “that once the law was enacted and the grant money was available, it was their responsibility to advocate for their communities to get their share.”

Hat tip to POLITICO Playbook.

Sunday, November 6, 2022 in Politico

stack of books

Planetizen’s Top Planning Books of 2023

The world is changing, and planning with it.

November 24, 2023 - Planetizen Team

Close-up of 'Red Line Subway Entry' sign with Braille below and train logo above text in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Red Line Extension Could Transform the South Side

The city’s transit agency is undertaking its biggest expansion ever to finally bring rail to the South Side.

November 24, 2023 - The Architect's Newspaper

Green Paris Texas city limit sign with population.

How Paris, Texas Became a ‘Unicorn’ for Rural Transit

A robust coalition of advocates in the town of 25,000 brought together the funding and resources to launch a popular bus service that some residents see as a mobility lifeline—and a social club.

November 30, 2023 - Texas Monthly

Green painted bike lane on street next to modern mid-rise apartment buildings in Seattle, Washington.

Seattle’s Bike Infrastructure Hamstrings Growth

Design standards that call for minimal road space allocated to bikes are limiting the growth of cycling in the city.

3 hours ago - The Urbanist

Tall palm trees against bright blue sky with snowy mountains in background. Los Angeles, California.

Winter Fun at Los Angeles County Parks

L.A. County is offering a winter edition of its popular and award-winning Parks After Dark program, providing opportunities for residents to come together and have fun in safe and welcoming spaces.

4 hours ago - NBC 4

Bird's eye view of houses in midtown Sacramento, California.

Sacramento Council Approves Upzoning Proposal

If given final approval, the plan would increase the allowable floor area ratio to permit denser housing development in single-family neighborhoods and near transit.

5 hours ago - Sacramento Business Journal

Senior Planner

City of Kissimmee - Development Services

Planner II

City of Kissimmee - Development Services

Senior Travel Demand Modeler

Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.