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Why Even Trump Would Love the New Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

stephen e. sandherrBY STEPHEN E. SANDHERR
CEO, AGC OF AMERICA

Something happened at the beginning of November in Washington that few would have expected after Joe Biden was inaugurated: President Trump’s infrastructure bill got enacted. That is right: The bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law is exactly the kind of bill the former president promised and would have proudly signed if it made it to his desk.

President Trump called for investing over $1 trillion in America’s public infrastructure. The recently enacted infrastructure bill does just that with record levels of new investments in physical infrastructure, including for roads, bridges, water, airports, ports and the energy sector. And contrary to what some are saying, a large portion of the funds are going to road and bridges: $350 billion.

The measure also makes significant investments in other forms of infrastructure. It provides $55 billion for improving clean water systems. Another $25 billion will go to improving airports while $17 billion will go to improving ports — a key part of the supply chain that clearly needs help. There is $73 billion for modernizing the nation’s electric grid, nearly $40 billion for transit construction projects. To name a few.

Another thing Trump would have liked is that the bill is fully paid for. That is because it redirects unspent COVID relief funds to cover the difference between what the government raises for infrastructure and what it invests each year. The new bill does not add to the deficit. But it will stimulate a lot of new, revenue-producing, economic activity. As the publication Bisnow reported, the infrastructure bill “paves the way” for billions to flow into commercial real estate projects across the country.

The bill makes President Trump’s expedited environmental One Federal Decision policy permanent. This policy holds federal officials accountable by requiring timelines and page limits for required environmental documents. And it allows utility firms to begin relocating lines before the environmental review process is completed.

Even though a Democratic Congress passed this bill, it was the product of negotiations between an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. Which is why the new measure does not prohibit states from building new road capacity, does not include portions of the dangerous PRO Act or load up on new red tape. Nor was the measure ultimately paired with the far more partisan and problematic so-called “human infrastructure” bill.

To be clear, this bill is not perfect. It fails to address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. And its expansion of Buy America requirements will exacerbate supply chain challenges. But it is likely a Trump-era bill would have done the same. What this new measure represents is an all-too-rare bipartisan effort that will improve public infrastructure, boost demand for construction and make our economy more efficient. That is exactly why we worked so hard to help make sure it passed. As a result, members across the country will now be able to begin the work of rebuilding our economy.