Earlier this month, Congress made a historic investment in our nation’s physical infrastructure by passing the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This legislation will help communities across the country rebuild their roads and bridges, railways, public transit systems, airports, water systems, and broadband networks, among many other projects, and promises to add an average of 2 million jobs per year over the next decade. The legislation also contains some important investments in climate infrastructure—including a provision from Jobs to Move America around local hire.
Some of the highlights of the IIJA include: $110 billion to repair highways, bridges, and roads; $65 billion to improve broadband networks for rural and low-income communities; $39 billion to modernize our public transit systems, which will help them address accessibility and procure trains and buses, including zero-emission buses; and $7.5 billion to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Under the new legislation, K-12 students will start to enjoy cleaner, healthier rides to school thanks to a serious investment of at least $2.5 billion in the transition to emissions-free electric school buses. Most of the nation’s school buses still run on heavily polluting diesel, creating toxic conditions for communities and school bus workers as well as for kids. JMA and our allies will work to advocate that an additional pot of $2.5 billion approved for school buses is also dedicated to electric models instead of fossil fuel buses, and that these funds are spent in a way that prioritizes environmental justice communities and creates good jobs for school bus, electrical, and manufacturing workers.
In a big victory for racial equity, and thanks to the tireless advocacy of our congressional allies, union partners, and coalition members, the IIJA removes the ban on local hire for highway and road construction projects, allowing cities and states to hire within their communities for federally-funded road work. It also requires the Department of Transportation to issue a Workforce Diversity Report describing how the department is utilizing pre-apprenticeship programs and addressing barriers to employment for communities that are traditionally disadvantaged in the construction industry. This is a great first step towards ending the ban on local hire for all federal funds, and we look forward to working with the Biden administration on implementing this provision.
While the IIJA represents an important and necessary investment in our nation’s physical infrastructure, we hope Congress will move quickly on the rest of President Biden’s agenda and pass the Build Back Better Act. Paired together, these two bills will help our nation rebuild from the pandemic and address climate change in a just and equitable manner.