Senate Passes Massive Infrastructure Bill

August 19, 2021

Senate Passes Massive Infrastructure Bill

The U.S. Senate recently passed the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (“IIJA”), clearing a major hurdle for the $1 trillion measure, which would be used for federal highway, bridge, and public transportation improvements. Investment for highway programs totals 35% ($347.8B) of this bill, which will be a 24% increase from the current year to the first year of the IIJA.

Project delivery and process improvement plays a major role in IIJA. The bill enacts into law former President Donald Trump’s “One Federal Decision” Executive Order, which: 1) consolidates all permitting decisions for major infrastructure projects into one single environmental document with a schedule set by the federal “lead” agency; and 2) finalizes the environmental review process with an average time of two years, and it completes all authorization decisions for a major project within 90 days of issuance.

This legislation requires an annual report detailing progress made on improving project delivery, such as savings and identification of problem areas. Additionally, it decreases delays for projects already in an existing right of way and projects using limited federal funds, which is accomplished by setting deadlines for permit approvals.

There is further investment into “Buy America”, an initiative that requires products be made in the U.S., by expanding its mandate to cover construction materials. IIJA also allows state or local agencies to implement hiring preferences, mandates that the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) provide diversity reports, and directs the DOT to formulate a model plan for agencies regarding employment diversity.

Roughly 10% ($91.2B) of the IIJA is distributed to public transportation. Its core programs will be primarily invested into bus grants, station improvements, light-rail, and other capital-intensive transit projects. 2.5% is directed to aviation, including improvement for runways, taxiways, and other non-terminal upgrades. Less than 2% is dedicated to multi-model grants, which involve surface transportation, safety plans, waterway passages, and intelligent transportation systems. Funding will also go to freight and passenger rail improvements, pipeline and hazardous materials programs, highway and commercial vehicle safety programs, port and waterway investments, clean energy and grid enhancements, broadband improvements, and clean drinking water investments.

To make the bill “paid for,” negotiators of the IIJA put together a list of various offsets from throughout the government. Senate negotiators have mentioned offsets, including unused COVID-19 emergency funding, tax revenue return, leftover unemployment insurance, cracking down on cryptocurrency tax avoidance, and selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve.

Once the bill leaves the Senate, the IIJA will be put before the House of Representatives, where it is expected to be passed into law.

For further assistance or information relating to changes through the IIJA, please contact the attorneys at Rock Fusco & Connelly, LLC.