President Joe Biden has signed a wide-ranging $1-trillion infrastructure package, the largest such measure in decades, which will provide substantial and long-sought funding for upgrades to highways, transit and passenger rail lines, water systems, the electric grid and other public works.
Biden signed the much-awaited measure, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Nov. 15, in a late afternoon ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. The sprawling package is the most important federal construction legislation in many years.
It includes a $305-billion, five-year reauthorization of federal highway and transit programs, an increase of more than 30% over the previous highway-transit legislation, as well as a water infrastructure reauthorization.
It contains more than $500 billion in federal funding above current baseline levels in several infrastructure categories.
One speaker at the bill-signing ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said the legislation will allow major projects in his state to advance, including the Gateway rail tunnels under the Hudson River.
Schumer added it also "will begin the necessary efforts to prevent the worst of climate change," by funding projects to make buildings more resilient.
The enactment marked the end of months of proposals, counter-proposals and counter-counter proposals that culminated in Senate passage on Aug. 10 and House approval on Nov. 5.
Biden said, "Our infrastructure used to be rated the best in the world.” But now, he said, according to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 13th.
"Well that’s about to change," Biden said. "Things are going to turn around in a big way.”
Biden was introduced by Heather Kurtenbach, a business agent, organizer and political director of Iron Workers Local 86 in Seattle.
Kurtenbach recounted her story, which included time in prison and a long job search that led to an apprenticeship, jobs and promotions with the union.
She praised Biden and the new legislation, saying that “a whole generation of our nation’s infrastructure will be built, creating good union jobs for people just like me.”
The bill's signing drew many messages of praise from industry groups that pushed hard or infrastructure legislation for years.
The National Utility Contractors Association, for example, sees benefits in the package's drinking-water, wastewater treatment and fiber-optic broadband cables.
NUCA Chief Executive Officer Doug Carlson said in a statement, "Our members are eager to get to work."