For too long, any discussion of infrastructure in our country has been accompanied by the adjective “crumbling.”  The backlog of needed repairs and upgrades in Maine and throughout America is simply enormous. Any of us who travels around our state experiences the posted bridges, the dangerous roads and the communities that lack internet access. On a per capita basis, our country invests far less in upgrading our infrastructure than many countries, including China, affecting our job creation and competitiveness.

Mainers know all too well the consequences of this chronic underinvestment. Poor road conditions and congestion cost them, on average, hundreds of dollars each year in vehicle repairs and wasted gasoline. Structurally deficient bridges can result in lengthy detours, inconveniencing residents and tourists and making shipping from Maine manufacturers more expensive, which costs us good jobs. Slow or nonexistent internet connections create barriers to work, health care, and education. A family in northern Maine told me it would cost them $15,000 to be connected to the internet – clearly unaffordable. An employer wanting to locate in rural Maine decided that it was impossible because of unreliable and slow internet connections. A selectman on Swan’s Island described the need for telemedicine for its residents, which is not feasible without broadband.

Every administration in recent memory has identified improving our infrastructure as a priority, but time and again we have seen those plans thwarted by partisanship. Earlier this year, a group of 10 senators – five of us Republicans and five Democrats – came together determined to break through this political gridlock. After months of working night and day, our bipartisan negotiations produced a truly transformational package for our country that would make the most significant investment in American infrastructure since the establishment of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. The Senate has now passed this landmark legislation that would provide concrete benefits for American families as well as our economy by making historic investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, airports, seaports, rail, water treatment systems, and broadband. It would also strengthen the resiliency of our coastal communities endangered by rising sea levels and changing weather.

One of the most significant provisions for Maine is the $65 billion investment to expand high-speed internet access to unserved areas of our country, mostly in rural areas, and improve service in underserved communities. I led the negotiations on broadband with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., consulting with our colleagues and the administration. It has become increasingly clear in recent years – and especially in light of the pandemic – that broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

The legislation also provides $110 billion to make real progress in addressing the growing backlog of deficient bridges, roads and highways. In Maine, 315 bridges and nearly 1,500 miles of roads are rated as being in poor condition.

Airports of all sizes would be eligible for projects such as rebuilding runways and taxiways or expanding terminals. The bill also bolsters our rail network by supporting capital and rail safety projects as well as supporting routes like the Downeaster.

In an effort to respond to climate change, funding is included to help minimize the damage from storms on coastal communities. Notably, $355 million is also included for an energy storage pilot program, which was authorized through legislation I authored known as the BEST Act. Advancing next-generation energy storage will allow us to integrate more renewables, such as wind and solar, into the electric grid, which in turn will help to reduce harmful emissions. An additional $95 million would be used to support transportation research at institutions of higher education like the University of Maine, which is pioneering cutting-edge materials to build more durable, environmentally friendly roads and bridges at a lower cost.

Our agreement includes needed investments in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Although Maine is home to some of the cleanest sources of water in the country, the increasing prevalence of pollutants like PFAS require action to keep our drinking water safe. That is why I also worked with Sen. Shaheen to provide funding to help address PFAS contamination in both public and private water systems.

Ultimately, this bill is about reinforcing the connections that make our country more united. Investments in our roads and bridges will better connect our communities. Investments in our airports will better connect rural and urban regions. Investments in our highways and seaports will better connect manufacturers and consumers. And investments in high-speed internet will better connect family, friends, co-workers and customers, health care providers, students and educators.

This infrastructure package represents a far-too-rare example of the two parties working together to produce results for the American people. This bill is good for America, and the House should work quickly to pass it.


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