In 2021, President Biden signed the historic $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, delivering on a key piece of his economic agenda. Since then, billions of dollars have been funneled into all 50 states in order to upgrade highways, transit systems, water systems, and more.
In Wisconsin, $2.8 billion in funding has been announced so far, and more is on the way. Here’s a look at the work that’s being done in the Badger State, and how it helps Wisconsinites.
Roads, Bridges, and Public Transit
In Wisconsin, there are 979 bridges and over 1,949 miles of highway in poor condition. According to the White House, $2.1 billion in funding from the law has been allocated towards Wisconsin roads, bridges, roadway safety, and other major projects as of February.
There are over four million licensed drivers in Wisconsin alone. According to TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, it’s estimated that Wisconsin’s deteriorated roads and bridges cost these drivers a total of $6.8 billion each year.
As these roads and bridges improve, the average motorist will spend less in additional vehicle operating costs (VOC). These costs are a “result of driving on rough roads, the cost of lost time, and wasted fuel due to congestion, and the financial cost of traffic crashes.”
To date, Wisconsin has been allocated $115.1 million to improve public transportation options across the state in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. Currently, 37% of the public transit vehicles in the state are past useful life. This funding will most directly affect non-white households, which are 5.9 times more likely to commute via public transportation.
Clean Buses, Energy, and Power
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is also set to invest over $10 billion into clean public transit and school buses over the next five years. Half of that money will be used to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. Clean-energy buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and will also reduce health risks among children and the surrounding communities.
The infrastructure law is also set to upgrade the power infrastructure by “making the grid more resilient and building thousands of miles of new transmission lines to deliver clean, affordable electricity.” There’s additional funding to weatherize homes to improve their energy efficiency. This would lower energy costs for impacted households by an average of $372 per year, according to the Department of Energy.
Airports, Ports, and Waterways
To date, Wisconsin has received approximately $42.4 million for replacing and modernizing airport infrastructure in the state. According to the White House, this will help the United States become more competitive economically and create jobs. And as Airport World, the magazine of the Airports Council International, notes “ensuring that an airport has the necessary infrastructure to support the desired level of air service, including terminal facilities, runways, taxiways and air traffic control systems are crucial for being able to accommodate growth in passenger demand.”
Similar to Wisconsin’s airports, the state’s ports and waterways are in dire need of investment. Roughly $32.1 million has been allocated to Wisconsin so far so that the state can address maintenance backlogs, and reduce congestion and emissions near ports. Ultimately, this will help the US move goods more quickly, at a lower cost.
“At a time when our supply chain is experiencing major disruptions, we are seeing the immediate impact of the bipartisan infrastructure bill for Wisconsin,” Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said in a statement in January. “These investments will not only strengthen our supply chain through overdue improvements for our ports and waterways, but also consider sustainability moving forward with a focus on ensuring our infrastructure is resilient to climate change.”
There’s no arguing that clean drinking water is essential. In Wisconsin, while most public water systems and private wells provide safe drinking water, some contain chemicals that can affect the health of citizens, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, including the first-ever dedicated federal funding to replace lead service lines and address dangerous PFAS chemicals, according to the White House.
There are nearly 200,000 lead pipes in Wisconsin, including more than 70,000 in Milwaukee alone. Drinking water that’s passed through lead pipes can lead to a variety of medical issues, including permanent neurological damage and coronary heart disease, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
As of February, $151 million in funds have been allocated for Wisconsin to provide residents with clean and safe drinking water. The funds will also be used to improve water infrastructure, including replacing lead pipes.
In January, the Environmental Protection Agency also announced a new initiative in Wisconsin to accelerate progress toward the Biden administration’s goal of achieving 100% lead service line removal and replacement.
The Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerators “will provide targeted technical assistance services to help underserved communities in Wisconsin access funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and replace lead pipes that pose risks to the health of children and families.”
In the modern world, access to the internet is not only necessary, but crucial for Americans to be able to do their jobs, go to school, access health care, and stay connected with family and friends. Yet, nearly 22% of Wisconsinites do not have an internet subscription, according to the Wisconsin Broadband Office. Under Biden’s infrastructure law, Wisconsin will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help ensure high-speed internet access across the state.
Experts also estimate that as many as 849,000 households in Wisconsin are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), although only 326,095 households are enrolled so far. This program cuts internet bills by up to $30 per month, or $75 for households on tribal lands. It also provides a one-time $100 discount off a connected device.
In addition to the above measures, the Biden administration is working with internet providers to offer high-speed internet plans that are fully covered by the ACP. This means that most eligible households in Wisconsin would be able to get high-speed internet for free.
Electric vehicles are quickly becoming a way of life for many Americans. While just 7% of U.S. adults say they currently own an electric or hybrid vehicle, according to the Pew Research Center, about 39% of Americans say that the next time they purchase a vehicle, they are at least somewhat likely to seriously consider electric.
The infrastructure law took these numbers into account, and has so far allocated $28.4 million in 2022 and 2023 to Wisconsin to build out a network of EV chargers across the state. Reducing gas emissions by transitioning to EVs is crucial to addressing the climate crisis, and that transition will create a crucial supply of new domestic manufacturing jobs, according to the White House. Wisconsin alone should expect to receive roughly $79 million over five years to support the expansion of electric vehicle charging.
Resilience and Legacy Pollution Cleanup
More broadly, one of the main aims of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is to address the climate crisis. Thousands of former industrial, chemical, and energy sites emit harmful pollutants into surrounding communities across the country. These sites more often than not disproportionately impact communities of color.
The infrastructure law is set to reclaim abandoned mines, cap orphaned oil and gas wells, and clean up Superfund sites, which are areas that have been contaminated by hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. As of February, 36 sites in Wisconsin were listed on the Superfund National Priority List.
To date, Wisconsin has been allocated approximately $75.1 million for improving “infrastructure resilience.” This investment will help the state work against pressing challenges like the impacts of climate change, extreme weather events, and more.
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