America’s infrastructure is falling apart. Our bridges and roadways are in visible disrepair. But the infrastructure that is underground is just as important as the infrastructure above ground, and it too is in dire straits. In its most recent “report card” on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave America’s drinking water a “D” and the American Water Works Association estimates that it would cost $1 trillion to not only address drinking water infrastructure shortcomings but to meet demand for the next 25 years. Wastewater treatment is not much better, having received a D+ from ASCE.
At $1.25 trillion, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) is the largest investment in U.S. infrastructure since the Eisenhower administration established the Interstate Highway System. While approximately half the funds authorized in the IIJA will be appropriated to highway projects, there are number of robust funding proposals that may generate work for p-h-c contractors and rejuvenate the post-pandemic economy, such as:
- $55 billion for water infrastructure;
- $47 billion for building resiliency; and
- $70 billion for the energy grid.
PHCC expects that the heavy investment in infrastructure over the next ten years has the potential to generate work for contractors directly through federal projects or indirectly via peripheral construction that is spurred as a result of highway and other infrastructure improvements.
But more can be done. The IIJA’s workforce training component focuses exclusively on public sector and transportation. With a workforce shortage in the building trades, Congress must focus on beefing up registered apprenticeship and other federal job training programs. Congress must also ensure that all qualified contractors, regardless of labor affiliation or lack thereof are treated equitably when competing for federal contracts. Furthermore, while PHCC supports the multi-billion dollar investment in making much-needed reinforcement to the country’s energy grid, the added electric capacity must not be used as an excuse by local and states governments to continue to phase out the use of natural gas as an energy source.