The $1.2 trillion infrastructure law that promises to rebuild the country’s roads and bridges, expand broadband service, increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, and give millions of Americans access to cleaner drinking water is a major accomplishment for Democrats running for office on Tuesday.
But decisions about how to spend all that money are only now beginning, nearly a year after President Joe Biden signed the largest infrastructure measure in decades. And his party is having difficulty winning elections.
According to polls, the majority of voters are unaware that Congress even passed the bill, much less that it is already scheduled to allocate tens of billions of dollars to initiatives like building rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River, restoring the Everglades in Florida, or replacing a bridge in Tennessee. When their local projects receive funding, Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill have been ready to praise and take credit for it.
In general, it will be many years before the federal, state, and local governments select which particular projects receive the lion’s share of funding, and much longer before the majority of Americans witness the outcomes in their own backyards. Republican governors who disagree with Biden’s proposal to use a large portion of the funding for initiatives to combat climate change or address the legacies of racial discrimination would make the majority of the spending decisions.
Democrats triumphed where former President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan failed by passing the law, which may still bring about the changes to the American economy that they had hoped for. However, the midterm election campaign, which focused mostly on themes like inflation, abortion rights, and concerns about American democracy, has seldom listed infrastructure as one of its top priorities.
Since Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited more than 40 cities throughout the nation to spread awareness of the law and tour infrastructure projects, Biden and his staff have spent the past year on an infrastructure victory lap.
The public should at least be aware that the infrastructure project is progressing, the White House hopes. The former mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, who supervised his city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina, served as Biden’s infrastructure coordinator.
People would say, “Oh, well I like that, and I want more of it,” Landrieu recalled, “when I was rebuilding the city of New Orleans, when you’re rebuilding and you get things coming out of the ground and you get credit for it.” “I’m going to vote for that candidate over the opposition.”