ABOVE: Pictured Left to Right: Mayor Sylvester Turner, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at the White House signing ceremony of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
What’s in it for Texas and the African American Community?
After months of back-and-forth negotiations and challenges within their own party, the Democrats passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with bipartisan support and it was signed into law by President Joe Biden this past Monday, November 15th.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will go down in history, to date, as the largest long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.
According to the White House and local congressional leaders, this bill will bring billions of dollars to Texas cities and rural communities and move our nation onto the 22nd Century.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) said of the signing of this bill that this legislation will ensure no lead in our pipes, broadband for our children, and other critical infrastructure needs for Texans and all Americans.
“I am glad to have been part of working on the solution to help deliver billions of dollars to Texas cities and rural communities,” said Congresswoman Jackson Lee. “President Biden promised to work across the aisle and forge consensus to deliver results, and that is exactly what he has done. We will be so much better for it.”
For decades, infrastructure in Texas has continued to deteriorate because there has not been attention or adequate resources provided to address the aging infrastructure needs in Texas.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers Texas was given a “C-minus” grade on its infrastructure report card, which is why this injection of much-needed capital for infrastructure should make life better for millions of Texas residents, while also strengthen the workforce and enhance economic growth through the creation of good-paying jobs for the immediate future.
According to the fact sheets released by the White House, they are touting that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will specifically deliver the following for Texas, as well as to the African American community:
- Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians
- Significant portions of the interstate highway system were built through Black neighborhoods, destroying homes, schools, churches, and parks, and causing lasting disconnection and disinvestment for residents who stayed. More broadly, historic investments in transportation infrastructure, especially highway construction, cut too many Americans off from opportunity, dividing and demolishing communities, and perpetuating economic and racial injustices. The legislation creates a first-ever program to reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure. The program will fund planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure. This is in addition to other major grant programs that could fund elements of these projects. In Texas there are 818 bridges and over 19,400 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 11.4% in Texas and on average, each driver pays $709 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. Based on formula funding alone, Texas would expect to receive $26.9 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $537 million for bridge replacement and repairs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act over five years. Texas can also compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of national funding in the bill dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities.
- Improve healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans
- African American workers commute by public transit at nearly 4 times the rate of white workers. The bill makes a historic investment in public transit and will reduce commute times and create more economic opportunities in communities of color. In addition, bus and transit workers are 31% Black, compared to 12% respectively of the workforce overall. The Bipartisan Infrastructure deal is the largest Federal investment in public transit in history and devotes a larger share of funds from surface transportation reauthorization to transit in the history of the programs. It will repair and upgrade aging infrastructure, modernize bus and rail fleets, make stations accessible to all users, and bring transit service to new communities. It will replace thousands of transit vehicles, including buses, with clean, zero emission vehicles. Texans who take public transportation spend an extra 80.8% of their time commuting and non-White households are 2.7 times more likely to commute via public transportation. 12% of trains and other transit vehicles in the state are past useful life. Based on formula funding alone, Texas would expect to receive $3.3 billion over five years under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to improve public transportation options across the state.
- Delivers reliable high-speed internet to every American household
- There is a stark digital divide in America. Black families are 9% less likely to have high-speed internet than their white peers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were stories of kids sitting in McDonald’s parking lots to log on to remote school in parts of the country. The agreement’s $65 billion investment ensures every American has access to reliable high-speed internet with an historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment, just as the federal government made a historic effort to provide electricity to every American nearly one hundred years ago. The bill will also help lower prices for internet service by requiring funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, requiring providers to display a “Broadband Nutrition Label” that will help families comparison shop for a better deal, and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren’t providing adequate service.
- Deliver clean drinking water to every American and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes
- The deal makes the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, replacing all the nation’s lead pipes and service lines. From rural towns to struggling cities, the deal invests in water infrastructure across America, especially disadvantaged communities that need it most. Across the United States, pipes and treatment plants are aging and polluted drinking water is endangering public health. There are up to 10 million American households with lead service lines and pipes, and children are being educated in up to 400,000 schools and childcare facilities that are at risk of exposure to lead and lack safe drinking water. Across the country, families of color are at the highest risk for lead exposure at home and in schools. For kids, higher exposure to lead can negatively affect academic performance, and can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life. By some estimates, each lead service line replaced at a cost of $5,000 per line leads to $22,000 in health savings. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, based on the traditional state revolving fund formula, Texas will expect to receive $2.9 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state and ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities.
- Safeguards communities of color from climate crises, extreme weather risks and cyberattacks
- People of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Black residents were twice as likely to report lost income. From 2010 to 2020, Texas has experienced 67 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $200 billion in damages. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, based on historical formula funding levels, Texas will expect to receive $53 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $42 million to protect against cyberattacks. Texans will also benefit from the bill’s historic $3.5 billion national investment in weatherization which will reduce energy costs for families.
- Invests in clean energy grid to mitigate the disparate impacts of pollution on communities of color
- African American communities are more likely to be burdened by pollution. Black people are almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than their white counterparts. The legislation’s roughly $65 billion investment is the single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history. It upgrades our power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy. It creates a new Grid Deployment Authority, invests in research and development for advanced transmission and electricity distribution technologies, and promotes smart grid technologies that deliver flexibility and resilience. It invests in demonstration projects and research hubs for next generation technologies like advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen.
- Build a network of EV chargers to facilitate long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options and electrify school buses, improving the air quality for children
- The legislation will make a critical down payment on helping the more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers who breathe polluted air on their rides to and from school. Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other health problems that hurt our communities and cause students to miss school, particularly in communities of color and Tribal communities. The legislation will deliver thousands of electric school buses nationwide, helping school districts across the country buy clean, American-made, zero emission buses, replacing the yellow school bus fleet for America’s children. The legislation invests in helping communities build resilience to wildfires and floods through investments in forest management and upgrades to critical infrastructure, like elevating buildings, roads, and bridges, hardening physical infrastructure, and winterizing the power grid. It will also fund state and local infrastructure improvements and emergency response strategies, such as planning grants to support development of evacuation routes or upgrading community shelters. The legislation will also make it easier for low-income families to buy flood insurance. The bill invests $7.5 billion to build out the first-ever national network of EV chargers in the United States and is a critical element in the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to accelerate the adoption of EVs to address the climate crisis and support domestic manufacturing jobs. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Texas would expect to receive $408 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state. Texas will also have the opportunity to apply for the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to EV charging in the bill.
- Improve our nation’s airports
- The United States built modern aviation, but our airports lag far behind our competitors. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act airports in Texas would receive approximately $1.2 billion for infrastructure development for airports over five years.
The White House is planning to gather more data and information over the coming days and weeks regarding the impact that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will have in Texas, and the Houston Forward Times will be following that information to ensure we are getting our fair share of those dollars in an equitable fashion.