A week ago, President Joe Biden signed into law the $1 trillion infrastructure package.
Aimed at reversing years of neglect, the measure will make an historicx investment to rebuild bridges and roads, replace aging lead water pipes and extend broadband to rural areas. The new law will mean more money for freight and passenger rail upgrades, along with improvements to public transportation; and it will look to the future with substantial new investments in renewable energy.
Nobody should downplay what happened last Monday. This was a major accomplishment.
For years, politicians in both parties have talked about doing something about infrastructure, but that’s what it’s mostly been: Talk.
Not this time.
The American people are legitimately cynical about politics in Washington, D.C. All Congress seems to do is argue. Rarely, is there bipartisan agreement on anything. But not this time.
Thirteen House Republicans and 19 Senate Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, joined most Democrats to support this package.
Unfortunately, many of those Republicans are now taking grief from some in their party for their votes. That's too bad. Polls have consistently demonstrated over the years that the American people, Republicans and Democrats alike, support new infrastructure investments. It would have been a shame to see this legislation fail.
Now, state and federal governments must see to it the money is wisely spent.
There's plenty of need.
In Iowa, the state has consistently ranked among the worst when it comes to the condition of its bridges. Nearly 1 in 5 are structurally deficient. According to the White House, this law ought to mean $432 million for bridge repairs over five years.
In Illinois, the $15 billion nationwide to replace outdated and dangerous lead water pipes ought to be welcome, too. The state has more miles of lead water lines than any other state in the nation.
It is our hope as this funding rolls out, our congressional and state delegations will be aggressive in touting projects that will make a difference here in the Quad-Cities.
In Rock Island County, there still is work to be done to improve Interstate-74, widening it from Avenue of the Cities to the Rock River and improving connections at John Deere Road.
In Scott County, these new funds could also mean faster progress toward widening Interstate-80 between Interstate-280 and LeClaire. The corridor has become more congested over the years and needs changes, something the state DOT already has already recognized.
We hope this money might also mean substantive investments in the lock and dam system on the Mississippi River.
That would help farmers in both states, not to mention create jobs. Which is another selling point for this legislation — what it will do for our economy.
We noticed last week that Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker touted the infrastructure package for its promise to advance passenger rail, too, including in the Quad-Cities.
It’s always good to see the governor look our way, and we’re happy that passenger rail in this area still is on his radar. But we also are mindful that the Chicago-to-Moline connection has been around for a long time. Nearly $180 million in federal money has been sitting in the bank for more than 10 years, just waiting to be spent. So as we celebrate these historic new investments in infrastructure in Illinois, might it be too much to ask that this rail link get fast-tracked?
A few weeks ago, state Deputy Secretary of Transportation Doug House said the connection is still "several years out." That’s hardly encouraging.
That said, we remain hopeful this new infrastructure package will make a big difference, in the Quad-Cities and around the nation; that the funding will make our roads and bridges safer and more efficient to use; that our water will be cleaner and our public transportation system will work better. And, ultimately, we hope this legislation lives up to the promise of making the U.S. more competitive around the world.
For all the political fighting that goes on in Washington, D.C. it is worth pausing to recognize this legislation for what it is: A time when members of both parties stood up and gave the American people what they said they wanted. And isn't that what our elected representatives supposed to do?
We hope this won’t be the last bi-partisan accomplishment that comes out of Washington.
We hope that investments like this, which the American people support, are not just good policy; but they're good politics, too.