BOSTON – As Congress continues to craft an infrastructure bill that would direct billions of dollars to states, a high-ranking member of the Massachusetts delegation points to challenges at home that could be helped with federal dollars .
U.S. Representative Richard Neal, chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, used a virtual address outside the Massachusetts High Technology Council on Tuesday morning to advocate for a strong package that invests in more than roads and Bridges, telling council members that Congress is still working to pass the bill.
“The gradual decline in our federal infrastructure investments over the years has resulted in an alarming number of crumbling roads and bridges, inadequate broadband access, and a shortage of affordable housing and community investments,” said Neal . “Here in Massachusetts, we face our own infrastructure challenges.”
President Joe Biden announced last week that a bipartisan group of lawmakers had reached agreement on a federal infrastructure bill that proposes $ 579 billion in new spending over five years.
According to the Associated Press, the biggest spending item in the federal accord is $ 109 billion for roads and bridges. The legislation also provides $ 66 billion for freight and passenger rail transportation, $ 49 billion for public transit and $ 25 billion for airports.
Passing a major spending plan would have significant impacts in Massachusetts and add to the flow of federal dollars going into the state and the excess revenue that state taxpayers have amassed in Beacon Hill. .
Neal pointed to the American Society of Civil Engineers ‘2021 Infrastructure Report for Massachusetts, which states that “deteriorating infrastructure is hampering Massachusetts’ ability to compete in an increasingly global market.”
ASCE reports that driving on roads in need of repair costs state drivers an average of $ 620 per year, 9% of bridges were classified as structurally deficient in 2019, schools face a capital expenditure shortfall of $ 1.39 billion, 328 dams are considered “high-hazard potential”, and the state’s drinking water needs are estimated at $ 12.2 billion.
Neal said deteriorating bridges and poor highways “affects all aspects of our daily lives” and also called for preventive action to mitigate climate change and future weather emergencies.
“Substantial infrastructure legislation will allow us to advance clean energy production by extending and expanding tax credits for clean energy production, clean energy production, and carbon capture and sequestration.” “, did he declare. “We have the opportunity to make smart investments that create good jobs, protect against costly environmental disasters and strengthen our economy.”
State Senate lawmakers prepared a $ 300 million local road and bridge repair bill (H 3903) for consideration in a formal session on Thursday. The law allocates $ 200 million for the maintenance of roads and bridges and includes additional funding for electric vehicles, public transportation and subsidies for small bridges, among others.
The House passed the annual bill last week, and lawmakers will need to resolve a few differences before they can get to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office. The House is asking for a total of $ 75 million for various grant programs; the Senate proposal increases this amount to $ 100 million, and the allocation of specific grants varies between the two.
Before federal lawmakers reached agreement on a federal infrastructure bill, they debated the exact definition of infrastructure and whether to include things like internet connectivity, systems for electric vehicles and childcare.
Neal said the infrastructure goes beyond roads and bridges.
“Without quality services, such as child care and paid family and medical leave, we cannot build an economy that works for everyone. “We must reshape the US economy in a way that is appropriate and sustainable for working parents, especially women and people of color who have disproportionately borne the brunt of this pandemic.”