Mayors, governors set to spend big money in ‘game changer’ infrastructure bill

Mayors and governors around the country are gearing up to compete for more than a trillion dollars in new infrastructure funding in what some believe could be “game-changer” money for their localities.

One example involves Mobile, Ala., Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who oversees a port that is quickly becoming one of the busier shipping hubs in the country. Already undergoing a three-year, $500 million upgrade to widen and deepen the channel to accommodate larger ships, the new capacity will “mean more goods entering and leaving – and more pressure on the port’s nearby railroads, highways, airport and inland waterways,” USA Today reported.

In Stimpson’s case, he is looking to snag new funding from the infrastructure package President Biden is expected to sign into law on Monday to finally build a new eight-mile-long bridge along Interstate 10 that would stretch across the Mobile River delta, which would cost up to $2 billion. In addition, he will attempt to secure funding to make over the city’s airport while also building out docks and warehouses to accommodate more port traffic.

“We have a very compelling case to be made for some of these funds,” Stimpson told the paper. He went on to call the airport expansion, the new bridge, and a larger port facility “three multigenerational game-changers” for the Gulf Coast.

“It’s just an amazing story of what could be,” he told USA Today.

Though the infrastructure bill was mired in legislative gridlock for a time as majority Democrats worked to secure enough votes from moderates and the party’s far-left progressive wing to pass it — which happened only with the help of 13 Republicans in the House and 19 Republicans in the Senate — mayors and governors have nevertheless spent the past several weeks reviewing and updating grant proposals while they assigned staffers to get ready to go after a portion of the historic infrastructure spending measure.

Stimpson, a Republican who went to the White House to lobby for the bill in July, said that he didn’t “have a lot of concerns” regarding whether party influences will matter. “I just have a lot of high hopes, let’s say, that we can qualify for” a portion of the money.

The measure “includes $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for Amtrak improvements and expansion, $65 billion for broadband internet expansion, $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid, $55 billion to upgrade water systems including replacing lead pipes, and billions for airports, sea ports, public transit and electric vehicle charging stations,” the paper reported.

And though it is the biggest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, the money still will only go so far. In addition, the spending measure has an eight-year window, so the funding is finite.

“We are going to have to be all hands on deck to be ready,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said, noting that her administration has already begun discussions with vendors regarding key projects.

While the measure expands existing federal funding for roads, bridges, and other common infrastructure projects, it also provides money for new initiatives aimed at making streets safer, reconnecting neighborhoods, and providing $100 million to each state to expand broadband service.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, also called the funding a “game-changer.” He looks to finally secure enough funding to build a new span across the Ohio River connecting Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, to replace the aged and inefficient Brent Spence Bridge, which was deemed obsolete by the Federal Highway Administration in the 1990s because, as one of the most trafficked bridges in the country, it carries far more vehicles than it was designed for.

“There have been four presidential administrations – at least – that have talked about getting this project done,” Beshear told USA Today. “Provided that we get a significant award from either that major projects bucket or another, we can get this thing done.

“It is thrilling. is really exciting. It is accomplishing what many thought was impossible,” he added.

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Jon Dougherty

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