After hours of delayed votes, negotiations, and missed deadlines, the U.S. House of Representatives finally adopted the bipartisan infrastructure package the Senate approved two months ago. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) reauthorizes surface transportation programs and includes $550 billion in new funding for roads, bridges, broadband, and other infrastructure projects.
Kentucky will receive roughly $5.1 billion over the next five years in formula funding for general road projects. Citing inadequate funding for needed construction and safety initiatives, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Kentucky a D+ grade for the commonwealth’s roads. Unlike the state’s road aid program, cities will not receive funding according to an allocation formula.
The act includes $40 billion in new competitive funding for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation. Over 2,800 bridges need repairs, which the Transportation Cabinet estimates will cost $1.8 billion. The estimate does not include repairs and additional capacity needed on the Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky or a new Interstate 69 bridge at Henderson.
The surface transportation authorization originally expired on October 31, although Congress extended the authorization for 30 days to avoid effectively shutting down the U.S. Department of Transportation and major road projects. While it received bipartisan support in both chambers, intraparty disagreements over a future reconciliation measure to implement most of Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda nearly tanked the infrastructure bill.
Because cities will not receive a direct allocation from IIJA, they will continue to shoulder most costs for vital streets and bridges within city limits. Since 2009, Kentucky cities have spent 62% more on city streets, but state and federal funding declined more than 4%.
Other competitive grant programs in the bill will allow local governments to reduce crashes and fatalities, deploy electric charging stations, fix railroad crossings, invest in transit, and improve airports. The measure also includes $17 billion in new funding for ports and inland waterways, $585 million for high-hazard dam rehabilitation, and $148 million for dam safety programs.
The IIJA funds more than just transportation infrastructure. It provides an additional $11.713 billion each through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds for both grants and loans. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program will receive $42 billion, including subgrants for local governments. Other funded priorities include energy efficiency, environmental remediation, and flood mitigation.
Only Representative John Yarmuth (D-3rd) of Kentucky’s congressmen voted in favor of the legislation. Kentucky’s two Republican senators split on the vote in August, with Mitch McConnell supporting the measure and Rand Paul opposing it.
The broader $2 trillion budget reconciliation measure addressing the social safety net, climate spending, and other items remains in doubt. The House passed on a party-line vote early Saturday morning a resolution to consider the Build Back Better Act, sponsored by Yarmuth. However, Democratic leaders announced a delay on a vote until at least next week to ensure they have enough support in their chamber.