Last year's big Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is starting to get people to work on repairing America's Crumbling Infrastructure™ with the release of $27.5 billion today that's earmarked for fixing thousands of bridges across the country. The White House would very much like to remind you that today marks 60 days since Joe Biden signed the bill into law, OK?
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — morel like Pete Buildabridge, huh? — said in a statement,
Modernizing America’s bridges will help improve safety, support economic growth, and make people’s lives better in every part of the country — across rural, suburban, urban, and tribal communities.
Plus, they're really noticeable, public reminders that government does some very necessary stuff that makes the economy work, keeps goods getting to stores, and allows kids to get to school, please cue the inspiring music if you will. Less "crumbling," more "shiny new" please! The administration said the Infrastructure Law represented the biggest federal investment in bridges since Ike stole the autobahn from Hitler and personally built the Interstate Highway System himself.
The Washington Post notes that the Infrastructure Law also parcels out the funding differently from most transportation funding: Instead of going to states based on their size, the bridge funding is aimed at prioritizing repairs or replacement for the bridges that are in the worst shape. That's such a smart idea it's a wonder that it's not the norm!
Some states are in line to secure an outsize amount. Louisiana, for example — where Biden traveled last year in an early effort to sell his infrastructure proposals — has about 1,600 bridges in poor condition and will get $1 billion. The sum represents a significant boost in federal transportation aid to the state.
About half the money will be shared by 10 states. Pennsylvania, with more than 3,300 bridges in poor condition, will get $1.6 billion, while California is in line to receive $4.2 billion. Twenty-three states will receive the minimum allotment of $225 million over five years.
Texas and Florida, typically major recipients of federal highway funds, will split less than $800 million between them.
All told, there are about 220,000 bridges across the country that need repairing, and 8,000 that need a complete overhaul, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), whose acronym only looks like a major you'd never make any money with. ARTBA said that without the new funding, all those repairs would have taken 40 years, and we bet by then even more bridges would need work.
As it is, ARTBA estimates all the needed work would cost $42 billion just to repair the 45,000 bridges that are most run-down, so if Congress wants to do another infrastructure bill in the next few years, there's definitely no shortage of bridges waiting for attention.
WaPo notes that while the Federal Highway Administration is encouraging states to use their allotments of bridge funding for repairs, states will also be free to use the funding for new bridges. Get ready for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to announce that his state needs a big solid bridge 30 feet high and one foot wide, running the length of the border with Mexico until all the money is gone.
The Highway Administration guidance also "encourages states to build with resilience against climate change and equity in mind," says the Post, although some red-state governors will say their projects are built to protect against "sea level rise" without any hint of why that's happening.
Also too, another $800 million in the Infrastructure Law is earmarked for bridges in tribal areas. A separate tranche of $12.5 billion will go to states and local governments through a competitive grant process, so get those grant writers hopping, governors!
And soon, we can all look forward to Republicans who voted against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law showing up to cut red ribbons and brag about all they did to improve their states' infrastructure.
In the movie version, at least one or two would disappear into sinkholes after the work was done by their corrupt contractor friends, and the credits would roll.
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