The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a wide-ranging document more than 2,700 pages long that will dole out about $1 trillion in federal funds to projects and agencies across the country aimed at helping build better infrastructure in the United States.
The agreement which was hammered out over the course of months by a group of bipartisan senators got support from 17 Republicans last week in a procedural vote that brought it a step closer to passing. The moderates behind the legislation say they are proud of the historic legislation and that it will be good for Americans.
But some Republicans are raising alarms about supposedly wasteful spending that won't serve what was supposed to be the narrow purpose of the bill: to improve the function of roads, bridges, water, broadband and other hard infrastructure.
Politicians in Washington are trying to spend trillions of dollars on so-called infrastructure solutions even when most of their answers have nothing to do with highways and bridges that would actually serve the American people, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said last week as he announced his opposition to the bill.
The costs will be very few and results will be high, Lee added.
Among the typical provisions of the bill is the Healthy Streets Program, which begins on page 386 of the bill. It would give grants to nonprofits and local governments for the purpose of making urban areas more environmentally friendly. It will have total $500 million over a five-year period, $500 million total.
The bill authorizes grant recipients to use federal funds for conducting an identifying inequality by mapping town areas, flood-prone locations and urban heat island hot spots as compared to pedestrian walkways low income communities and disadvantaged communities.
Recipients can also use the money to study porous heat islands to identify urban heat spot areas of extreme heat or air pollution, to plant trees in urban areas and to deploy cool pavements and hot pavements.
Another section would focus on pollination-friendly practices on routesides and highway rights of way. Would this bill cost $10 million in five years. It would give out grants to plant wildflowers along roadsides, remove nonnative grasses and pay consulting fees for advice on pollinator-friendly roadside management. This section starts on page 474.
Study of driving while under the influence of marijuana.
The bill also authorizes a number of studies and reports in fact, the word study appears more than 300 times in the legislation. Reports are appeared many more than 500 times.
On page 1201, the bill would authorize a report to make recommendations for increasing and improving, for scientific researchers studying impairment while driving under the influence of marijuana, access to samples and strains of marijuana and products containing marijuana. More succinctly the bill will have a report on how to improve high driving studies.
On page 183, the bill would mandate a study of the state of practice of methods to reduce collisions between motorists and wildlife. The study would be required to look at not only the causes of such collisions, their impact and potential solutions, but also the impacts of road traffic on species listed as threatened species or endangered species and species identified by States as species of greatest conservation needs.
One of the provisions of the bill that may affect the greatest number of Americans over time is the requirement, beginning on page 1,067 that new cars contain advanced drunk and impaired driving technology.
This technology, according to the bill, would passively monitor the performance of a driver and whether this driver is impaired. It would also test whether the blood alcohol concentration of a motor vehicle is too high to be driving and prevent the car from driving if that is the case.
If vehicle drivers need to track or stop, they will be required to find out whether their drivers have a history of drinking and will be revoked when they believe it is the case. The policy is a long-term project of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the group takes a victory lap online over its inclusion in the bill.
The $22.7 billion infrastructure bill with potential for U.S. Senate debate is the most important public policy in MADD's 41-year history. Requiring prevention tech for all new vehicles will mark the beginning of the end of drunk driving! the organization tweets.
It thanked Reps. Donald Biden, D-Mich. Kathleen Rice, R-N.Y. David McKinley, R-W. Va. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N. M. and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. for helping to advance the policy.
And as part of a section that aims to encourage women to become truckers, which starts on page 879, the bill would also create a Women of Trucking advisory board.
The board's goal will be to recruit women who want to become truckers and to train and mentor them. There bill requires at least eight members on this board, which will examine barriers and trends that impact female minority groups and look into safety risks unique to women in the trucking industry, among other things.
The board will be required to produce a report for Congress.
The bill does, of course, address many more traditional things that one would think of as infrastructure, including more than $260 billion for the National Highway Performance Program. It also includes $5 billion in clean and zero-emission school buses and funds a range of transportation programs.
Among the transit spending is a reauthorization of the Pilot Program to the tune of $15 billion over five years. This pilot program finances rail projects and other similar infrastructure efforts that are already underway. Its most sophisticated beneficiary has been the San Jose, Calif.-based Bay Area Rapid Transit project to build a transit tunnel under city hall in Bay Area, Calif.
The money in the infrastructure bill is not a specific earmark for that project, like the one included in the Coronavirus stimulus bill earlier this year. It goes towards the program itself, not any specific project. It is possible that the Federal Transit Administration could award future grants to the BART tunnel project, which is over budget and behind schedule.
On Wednesday, senators will vote on amendments to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has telegraphed a sense of urgency on passing the legislation, is likely to call up a procedural vote on the bill sometime this week.
This would set up a final Senate passage of the behemoth legislation that has been public only since late Sunday night for next week.