​Leahy: Bipartisan infrastructure bill will yield wide benefits across Vermont

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​Leahy: Bipartisan infrastructure bill will yield wide benefits across Vermont

Mon, 11/08/2021 - 2:41pm -- tim
Leahy Spotlights Key Vermont Highlights at Burlington International Airport

Vermont Business Magazine Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) at a press conference at Burlington International Airport today touted the benefits of the just-passed infrastructure bill that will bring at least $2.2 billion into Vermont. More than two months after the US Senate passed bipartisan legislation to invest $1.2 trillion to the nation’s infrastructure, the House of Representatives late Friday night gave final approval to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill next goes to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. 

Leahy said that infrastructure used to mean roads and bridges. It still means that, he said, but he also emphasized the hundreds of million of dollars also coming into Vermont for broadband, electric vehicles and water and stormwater projects.

The clean water projects will especially assist in home building in the more rural parts of the state. The $100 million for broadband likely will be expanded once the FCC redraws its maps. The maps determine where broadband internet service is lacking in the state. The current maps paint a rosier picture than what actually exists. Once those maps are updated, Leahy expects more money will come the state's way.

Senator Leahy addresses the press at BTV on Monday afternoon after arriving with his wife Marcelle from Washington. VBM photos.

Leahy, who has strongly supported and voted for the bill in the Senate, hailed passage of the bill as long overdue and urgently needed.  He especially applauded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) for their concerted work to get the bill across the finish line.

Leahy said:  “This bipartisan bill, now on the verge of becoming law, is historic, and these investments will have wide and deep benefits across Vermont.  It is a once-in-a-generation investment to help build back America’s crumbling roads and bridges, and it will drive our communities into the 21st Century and beyond through groundbreaking investments in broadband, public transit, and clean water infrastructure.  The Senate acted more than two months ago to pass this meaningful legislation.  Final enactment should not have taken this long.  Finally the House has now taken action, and the President can sign this bill into law.  It is time for us to get to work and get shovels in the ground in Vermont and across the country.”

Leahy continued:  “Now our attention can turn to additional legislative work to deliver even more needed resources to our communities and to our families, as well as to address the mounting climate crisis.  For too long, we have neglected critical domestic priorities.  The time for dallying is over.  Let’s get to work.”

Leahy chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Among the bill’s achievements is $110 billion in new investments to address the aging infrastructure needs of the nation’s roads and bridges.  The bill also provides $66 billion for passenger and freight rail as well as $39.2 billion in public transit funding to address the country’s transit system repair backlog.  The Department of Transportation estimates that the backlog is more than 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars, 200 stations, and thousands of miles of track, signals, and power systems.

Based on formula funding, Vermont is expected to receive $1.4 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs under this package over five years.  Vermont also will receive $83 million over five years to improve public transportation options across the state and $21 million over five years to support the expansion of an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network in the state. 

Vermont will have the opportunity to apply for the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to EV charging in the bill.  For broadband, Vermont will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state. 

The bill includes $150 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), a program for which Leahy has long led in Congress. Projects in Vermont regularly receive a quarter of the funding allocated to the NBRC. 

And the bill also provides $40 million for another Leahy priority: Water quality projects in the Lake Champlain Basin, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This bipartisan infrastructure package also makes significant down payments on climate resiliency initiatives to make the country and Vermont more prepared to tackle the climate crisis. 

It authorizes an estimated $65 billion investment in clean energy transmission, the single-largest clean energy investment in American history.  It also invests $10 billion to address Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), $5 billion for the replacement of existing school buses with zero emission and clean school buses with a priority on low-income, rural and Tribal schools, and $3.5 billion in the Weatherization Assistance Program, reducing energy costs for more than 700,000 with low incomes.

The bill also dedicates $65 billion to building out America’s broadband infrastructure. 

This funding will go toward grants to states for broadband deployment, making broadband access more affordable for low-income families, expanding eligible private activity bond projects to include broadband infrastructure, and supporting middle-mile deployment. 

Vermont is expected to receive at least $100 million of the $42.45 billion for grants to states for broadband deployment.  This funding will help residents of at least 40,000 Vermont addresses that currently lack access to quality, high-speed internet service. 

The bill builds on and permanently establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, renaming it the Affordable Connectivity Benefit. This program will provide a $30-per-month voucher for low-income families to use toward any internet service plan of their choosing.

Additionally, the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill includes $3.418 billion through the General Services Administration (GSA) to invest in our Nation’s Land Port of Entries (LPOEs). 

This funding will help improve both the facilitation of trade and travel to the United States as well as supporting the deployment of advanced screening equipment to strengthen security. 

The bill would fund the following LPOE projects in Vermont: Highgate Springs, Alburgh Springs, Beebe Plain, Norton and Richford. 

The Highgate Springs LPOE, located on Interstate 89, is among the highest volume ports between the United States and Canada.

In an unrelated question from the press, Leahy said that he will talk about his reelection plans at an "appropriate time." but not today. His term is up in next year. 

Source: Leahy 11.6, 11.8.2021