We're about to receive the largest infrastructure investment in US history and it's a good thing

President Biden signs his bipartisan infrastructure bill into law

The process wasn’t always pretty, but in the end, Congress got it done.

After years of failed “infrastructure weeks,” Congress just passed – and the president signed – the largest investment in infrastructure in U.S. history. This is a bipartisan measure that will have a profound impact on public health and safety, and our quality of life, in Texas.  

U.S. President Joe Biden celebrates with lawmakers including ‪House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., before signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 2021.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst     

Outside of the halls of Congress, most folks don’t spend too much time thinking about infrastructure — until it fails us, as it did for too many Texans this past February. Texas’ infrastructure was woefully unprepared during Winter Storm Uri, where millions lost electricity and water for days. With the American Society of Civil Engineers rating Texas’ infrastructure as “mediocre,” it’s clear we need a major investment in the fundamental systems that support a modern society. 

The infrastructure we build impacts our health and the environment for decades into the future. All Americans want clean air to breathe, clean, lead-free water to drink, and more options to get around. But for decades, our infrastructure investments haven’t reflected those values. Thankfully, the bipartisan infrastructure bill gives us just that, including a major electric grid, transportation and clean water package that will have a big impact on Texas.

The bill includes $73 billion to upgrade the electric grid, including money to harden it against the impacts of extreme weather, to weatherize homes, and to modernize transmission and distribution lines. Slashing energy waste in buildings and getting our nation’s electricity grid ready for an influx of renewable energy are important pieces of creating a cleaner, greener energy system for America. 

President Joe Biden signs the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" during an event on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP )

The bill invests $55 billion to help improve water quality. And we need it. Texas still has an estimated 270,000 lead service lines in operation, contaminating water supplies, and had 6,000 overflows of raw sewage in 2019, making our beaches less safe for swimming. The bill includes significant funding for lead service line removal as well as funding for projects that restore nature’s ability to absorb stormwater and fix failing treatment plants.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill also puts $21 billion toward environmental remediation. Texas has 55 toxic “superfund” sites, 32 abandoned mines and an estimated 783,000 unplugged oil and gas wells. The clean-ups will be paid for in part by a “polluter pays” tax on the production of hazardous chemicals.

We should not dismiss what the bipartisan infrastructure bill represents – a compromise that brings elected officials from both sides of the aisle together for the greater good. 

Beyond those important public health provisions, this bill makes groundbreaking investments in electric vehicle infrastructure as well. Notably, it provides $7.5 billion for a nationwide electric vehicle charging network, which represents the federal government’s first investment in electric vehicle infrastructure. 

The bipartisan bill also delivers a guaranteed $5 billion for a national investment in electric school buses and low-emission buses, which will help school districts across our state to ditch diesel, cutting back on air pollution that contributes to climate change and puts our state’s 5 million school children at increased risk for asthma and other serious health conditions.  

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 15: President Joe Biden signs H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, during a ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House on November 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images)

This week, let’s celebrate the progress the infrastructure bill represents. On its own, this investment is historic and will leave our country healthier, stronger and more resilient. And we should not dismiss what the bipartisan infrastructure bill represents – a compromise that brings elected officials from both sides of the aisle together for the greater good. 

To solve social problems, we need leaders – who don’t always agree – to set aside their differences and reach compromises on solutions. This bill reflects that bipartisan spirit and takes major steps toward a cleaner and healthier America. 

As has been the case since America’s earliest days, there is no challenge we cannot overcome if we find a way to work together. 

Luke Metzger is executive director of Environment Texas, a nonprofit advocate for clean air and water, parks and wildlife, and a livable climate.

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