The Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) and the buzz about it

The much-talked-about Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) is a bipartisan effort to rebuild and improve the health of America’s existing transportation infrastructure and internet connectivity, as well as tackle the climate crisis.

But why is the government pumping $1.2 trillion into this over the next ten years?

America’s existing physical and digital infrastructure is in deep crisis, especially after emerging from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. It has been rated as C- by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 2021. This investment will not only help modernize the existing infrastructure systems but also boost the creation of jobs with good pay and high labor standards. It will also help ease inflation by putting money back into people’s hands, focusing on the environment, providing broadband connectivity in the most remote areas, and helping the nation move forward with economic growth. This investment is a significant step forward in providing greater access and mobility to the people in America who are living in the most remote parts of the country.

Is IIJA a quick fix to help the country recover from the losses incurred during the pandemic?

The IIJA is designed to be a long-term solution to repair the underlying, deteriorating infrastructure, which has only worsened since the pandemic. It is a means of rebuilding America’s foundations to increase our competitiveness and continue to be the global market leader.

The IIJA investment will not only help modernize the existing infrastructure systems but also boost the creation of jobs with good pay and high labor standards.

What are the challenges, solutions, and investments offered by the IIJA in the next five years?

The IIJA investments aim to address the challenges within the existing infrastructure systems, which can be classified into five categories. Let’s investigate each of these categories and the investments provided for them.

Highways, roads, and bridges

At present, one in five miles of America’s highways and major roads and more than 43,500 bridges are in poor condition. The IIJA aims to invest approximately $400 billion over the next five years to drive job creation, improve last-mile connectivity, boost both regional and national economies, and make the U.S. transportation system safer, more efficient, and more adaptable.

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Airport, ports, and rail sectors

The IIJA plans to invest $25 billion in repairing and modernizing the National Airspace System (NAS). This investment also aims to lower emissions and reduce congestion within the NAS.

America’s underfunded ports and waterways infrastructure have cost our economy dearly. The increase in imports and exports through our outdated infrastructure and losses from the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the nation’s worldwide competitiveness and put enormous strain on ports and regional waterways. An investment of $16.7 billion in improving our coastal ports, inland ports, land ports along our borders, and waterways will be provided by the IIJA. It will also invest $66 billion in advanced appropriation and an additional $36 billion for rail infrastructure.

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Water and energy

America’s energy systems need modernization to reduce power outages, bring low-cost clean energy to more citizens, and reduce dependence on global suppliers for providing cutting-edge clean energy technology. The IIJA will invest $21.5 billion in clean energy technology demonstration projects and an additional $6.5 billion in other energy efficiency improvements. Water infrastructure has suffered chronic underinvestment across the nation for a long time, putting local communities at risk. The IIJA will invest $55 billion in water infrastructure, including dedicated funding to replace lead service pipes and address the issue of dangerous chemicals such as PFAS ( per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances). In 2021 alone, the U.S. faced 20 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each. The IIJA intends to make vulnerable communities in the U.S. safer and our infrastructure more resilient to climate change with an investment of $50 billion to act against droughts, heat, floods, and wildfires.

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In thousands of rural and urban communities, several abandoned oil and gas wells, mines, brownfields, and Superfund sites sit idle and are sources of significant pollution. These sites pose severe health and safety hazards, and the communities surrounding these sites have long suffered from a lack of investment. The IIJA will provide an investment of $21 billion in environmental remediation efforts, such as removing toxic chemicals from these sites and addressing pollution that harms the health of the nearby communities. The investment can stimulate the creation of high-paying jobs and ensure long-overdue attention to environmental justice.

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Investment in broadband is the first of its kind in American history. The IIJA will invest $65 billion to ensure that every American can access reliable high-speed, and high-quality internet.
It will also help lower the price of internet access so that more Americans can have complete access. This will help them perform their jobs, run businesses, as well as access medical and other services better while staying connected.

What does the IIJA hold for us in the future?

The construction industry is lagging in the adoption of digital technology compared to other sectors, such as manufacturing and warehousing. The majority of work on the ground is still conducted on paper and spreadsheets, and sharing information among different stakeholders is nothing short of a nightmare. In most cases, the lack of digitalization has been one of the primary reasons for inefficiencies in project planning, coordination, and budgeting — resulting in delays and cost overruns. Digital transformation is the only way forward. The IIJA has come at precisely the right time when our existing systems need a complete overhaul.
IIJA spending has considerable breadth, as it touches every sector. With a massive investment of $1.2 trillion in transportation, public safety, the environment, and other areas of public infrastructure, the IIJA plays a huge role in supporting the nation’s growth plans. Government agencies carry enormous responsibilities to implement the program’s policies effectively. This must be done by hiring more workers, mobilizing financial resources, and maintaining transparency from start to finish. Only time will tell if the efforts taken by the IIJA investments translate into fruitful results in the decades to come.

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