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Oklahomans to Gain EV Charging, Broadband, and More from Infrastructure Package

August 20, 2021 by Reece Nations

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — As Congress ponders the final version of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the White House is providing details on what states stand to gain from the package.

In Oklahoma, investments in roads, bridges and airports are just a portion of the state’s overall infrastructure needs. Drinking water infrastructure will require an estimated $6.9 million in investments, while 449 dams are considered to have high-hazard potential and the state’s schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $624 million, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“Earlier this year, the [Energy and Public Works] Committee overwhelmingly approved a highway bill and a drinking water bill that were chock full of provisions I authored and supported,” Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, said in a written statement. “The legislative process was working.”

There are 2,326 bridges and over 1,004 miles of highway considered to be in poor condition in Oklahoma, and the state could expect a $4.3 billion investment for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $266 million for bridge replacement and repairs should the bill be enacted. Further, Oklahoma would be eligible for an additional $12.5 billion from the “Bridge Investment Program,” and another $16 billion in federal funds for major projects of economic significance to communities.

Public transportation infrastructure in Oklahoma also stands to improve from the passage of the bipartisan bill, where 25% of transit vehicles are past “useful” lifespan. Oklahomans could expect to receive $349 million over five years for public transport improvements across the state based on formula funding.

“Thanks to President Biden’s competent leadership, the bipartisan deal has passed the Senate and is on track to help create millions of good-paying jobs, make critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure, and continue our trajectory of historic economic growth,” Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said in a written statement. “The passage of the bipartisan deal … is only further proof of President Biden and Democrats’ commitment of delivering for American families.”

Harrison continued, “From day one, President Biden promised to work across the aisle to accomplish his ambitious agenda and he has kept true to that promise. Now, thanks to his leadership, Republicans and Democrats have come together to invest in American workers, farmers, and businesses.”

Charging stations for electric vehicles in Oklahoma will also benefit from investments from the bipartisan package. One of the goals championed by the Biden administration and subsidized by the proposed bill is the creation of the nationwide chain of EV charging stations designed to reduce the carbon impact of the nation’s interstate highway system.

Of the overall $7.5 billion earmarked for EV charging stations under the bill’s provisions, Oklahomans would see $66 million over five years for the expansion of the charging network in the state. Further, Oklahoma would become eligible for an additional $2.5 billion in dedicated grant funding for EV charging for the state’s 935 miles of interstates within its borders.

Additionally, the state would benefit from the $3.5 billion national investment in weatherization intended to reduce energy costs to reduce residents’ energy costs. Oklahoma experienced nearly 500 energy outages between 2008 and 2017, according to ASCE data.

“We are pleased to see the Senate has passed an infrastructure package that will benefit American cattle producers,” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of Government Affairs, Allison Rivera, said in a written statement. “Investments in infrastructure are critical to ensure that those in rural America, including farmers and ranchers, have the necessary resources to operate the businesses that serve as the backbone of rural economies.”

Another provision of the package entails reinforcing access to broadband internet throughout the country. In Oklahoma, 9.3% of residents reside in areas that lack broadband infrastructure under the Federal Communications Commission’s benchmark, according to White House figures. In addition, 16% of households in the state lack an internet subscription.

The bipartisan infrastructure package includes a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state to expand access to the 368,000 Oklahomans that lack a reliable broadband connection. An additional 29% of Oklahomans would be eligible for the “Affordability Connectivity Benefit” provision, designed to help low-income families afford internet access.

The bipartisan package also aims to eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes as up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and child care centers lack safe drinking water, according to White House figures. Based on the traditional state revolving fund formula, Oklahomans could expect $520 million over five years for the improvement of water infrastructure across the state.

“Infrastructure and debt should not be partisan issues,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla, said in a written statement. “This bill is the first step toward the Green New Deal, and it adds billions to our national debt on top of last year’s emergency COVID spending. Infrastructure is important, but it’s not a crisis. The better infrastructure policy would prioritize building the multitude of projects we can pay for without additional debt. I cannot support this bill.”

Another major goal of the infrastructure package is to account for the state-level impacts of climate change, extreme weather events and cyberattacks. In the last decade, Oklahoma experienced 46 extreme weather events that cost the state up to $20 billion in damages.

Based on historical formula funding levels, Oklahomans could see $18 million coming to the state over five years to mitigate the effects of wildfires and an additional $16 million to protect against cyberattacks. 

Lastly, approximately $137 million over five years would go to Oklahoma for airport modernization and development, should the bill be enacted.  

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