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What Texans Can Expect from the Infrastructure Bill

August 16, 2021 by Reece Nations
What Texans Can Expect from the Infrastructure Bill
Austin, Texas. (Photo by Dan McCue)

As the looming bipartisan infrastructure plan awaits its final approval, states are beginning to find out what the bill has in store for them.

In the state of Texas, infrastructure investment has been a looming issue for some time. The state’s power grid faltered after an intense bout of winter weather in February, TWN reported, and the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Texas a C grade on its infrastructure report card issued earlier this year.

“The bipartisan infrastructure plan will reduce congestion and create jobs by making a once-in-a-generation investment in our roads, bridges, mass transit, broadband and clean energy technology,” Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, said in a written statement. “Because of our rapid population growth in North Texas investing in our infrastructure isn’t optional — it’s a necessity. I look forward to continuing to work in the House to get this bill across the finish line with bipartisan support.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aims to employ equitable solutions including promoting healthy and sustainable transportation options for the millions of Americans who depend on the reliability of the nation’s roads, highways and bridges, according to a White House press release.

Under the proposals included in the package, Texas would receive $26.9 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $537 million for bridge replacement and repairs that hone in on climate change mitigation and prioritize safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Further, Texas can compete for an additional $12.5 billion under the bill’s “Bridge Investment Program” for bridges of economic significance and around $16 billion in funds earmarked for major projects that entail substantial economic benefits to communities.

The legislation also contains provisions to improve public transportation in the state, where 12% of transit vehicles are past their intended lifespan. Based on formula funding, Texans would receive around $3.3 billion over five years to improve public transportation options across the state.

Another key provision included in the legislation pertains to the Biden administration’s push to expand the practicality of electric vehicles nationwide by investing in charging networks. The bipartisan infrastructure package includes $7.5 billion for investments to the first-ever national network of EV chargers, of which Texas could see around $408 million over five years for its own vehicle charging network.

Texas would also be eligible for federal grants of up to $2.5 billion dedicated to additional EV charging expansion throughout the 3,233 miles of interstate highways in the state.

In Texas, 14% of households lack an internet subscription and 4% of residents live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure under the Federal Communications Commission’s benchmark. Accordingly, Texas could expect a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state and 29% of residents would be eligible for the “Affordability Connectivity Benefit,” a provision to help low-income families afford internet access.

The bipartisan infrastructure package would also allocate $2.9 billion over five years, based on the traditional state revolving fund formula, for Texans’ water infrastructure initiatives in an effort to eliminate lead service lines and pipes across the country. Roughly $1.2 billion in funds over five years would also be assigned for airport infrastructure development in Texas under the bill’s provisions.

“For rural communities that lack adequate access to high-speed internet, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act delivers broadband to rural homes, communities and businesses across the country — increasing access to jobs, education, health care, banking, and markets for farmers and rural small businesses,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement. “It also upgrades our power infrastructure, improves drinking water, and connects rural communities through upgraded roads and bridges.”

Another key tenet of the bipartisan packages distributes funds to strengthen states’ cybersecurity infrastructure. Under this provision, Texas would be issued $42 million to help protect against cyberattacks. 

Lastly, the bill includes funds to dampen the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events for Texas, which have already cost the state around $200 billion in damages over the last 10 years. Texas’ power grid would receive a $3.5 billion national investment in weatherization to reduce residents’ energy costs and $53 million over five years to protect against wildfires. 

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