The Lead

Progress expected in 2022, but it might take years before Pa. communities see impact of federal infrastructure bill

By: - November 18, 2021 2:34 pm

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., outlines the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden, during a press call on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (Screenshot)

Billions of dollars in federal funds are headed to Pennsylvania over the next five years as part of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden this week.

But it’ll take time before communities see progress, as federal officials outline guidelines for spending the money earmarked for roadways, broadband, transportation, revitalization, and environmental investments. 

The president signed the legislation Monday, but the job isn’t even halfway over, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told reporters during a press call on Thursday, adding that it’ll take a few years before projects take shape.

“You’re not going to see all of it in one year, obviously, but I think you’ll see some good indicators in 2022,” Casey said. “And I want to see as fast as possible what the old construction guys used to call ‘dirt flying.’ We need to see dirt flying in lots of places because everybody worked hard to get this done.”

A project’s funding depends on the type of initiative and communities, Casey said, adding that state and local governments are “going to have to have a game plan to apply for the dollars and get the dollars moving.” The Biden administration and federal agencies are working to implement and accelerate the funding programs before distributing funds to states.

Asked about transparency and accountability for allocations, Casey said oversight should come from the federal and state level. Communities and their governing boards are responsible for deciding what funds to apply for and what projects to take on.

“There’s not going to be some federal oversight board that will examine every project, but the oversight has to be provided both by Congress, as well as by in our case, the state General Assembly,” he said. “A lot of these projects will have state and federal money, and that … committee work is going to be important here over time.”

He added: “We did learn some lessons — some of them more painful — from the Recovery Act of a decade ago. It was critical to getting the economy back on track, but there were some mistakes made there that we can’t help but learn from.”

According to an analysis by U.S. Rep. Brendon Boyle’s, D-2nd District office, Pennsylvania is slated to receive:

  • $11.3 billion for federal-aid highway programs
  • $1.6 billion for bridge replacement
  • $2.8 billion over five years to improve public transportation
  • $171 million over five years to support the expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure
  • $49 million over five years to protect against wildfires
  • $26 million to protect against cyberattacks
  • $1.4 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure

The infrastructure bill was backed by nearly all congressional Democrats, as well as 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who was at the White House when Biden signed the legislation, praised the bill, saying it will “strengthen not only our infrastructure, but our economy, our environment, and good union-paying jobs.”

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