For too long, America’s infrastructure needs have gone unmet as partisan politics delayed efforts to meet the needs of our citizens. Americans racked up costly repairs or time-consuming delays because of crumbling roads and bridges, flew out of outdated airports and struggled to access the digital infrastructure that connects us to so much of our modern life.

No longer.

This week, the U.S. Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a completely bipartisan piece of legislation that provides long-overdue, much-needed investments in the shared pieces of American life that power our economy and our society. As part of the group of 22 senators, I’m proud to say that our intensive negotiation and lengthy discussions resulted in a bill that will bring immense benefits to the people of Maine and Americans across the country. Put simply: bill is nothing short of historic.

There are a lot of victories worth celebrating in this bill, but I believe that the legislation’s $65 billion for broadband infrastructure is far and away the most transformative provision. In 2012, I wrote an op-ed in this paper touting the vast potential of broadband connectivity for our state, and the past year has only reinforced that vision. The coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of an affordable, high-speed broadband connection for Americans trying to pursue an education, work remotely, access health care or stay connected to loved ones. But for too long, these important opportunities have been out of reach for many rural communities and low-income people. This legislation will change that.

Just as rural electrification did in the 1930s, these broadband investments will help connect every American to the infrastructure that powers 21st-century life, and enable communities across the nation to fully engage in the 21st-century economy. As remote work becomes more accepted, a high-speed internet connection means an individual can work for any company in the country – so people can choose to work where they live instead of the other way around. Maine will be able to attract office workers looking for a higher-quality of life, strengthening our local economies and reinvigorating our communities.

I’m particularly grateful that over $40 billion of these funds reflect my bipartisan BRIDGE Act, which directs money straight to states so they can utilize the resources in the way that best suits local needs to close the digital divide and provide affordable access. Early projections show that Maine is likely to receive close to $300 million to improve connectivity through high-speed, future-proof broadband infrastructure, in addition to the more than $120 million already coming through this year’s American Rescue Plan.

While the broadband provisions are the most transformational part of this bill – or of any bill I’ve ever voted on, for that matter – they are far from the only wins worth celebrating. The bill includes $110 billion in funding for roads, bridges, and major projects – which will help Maine significantly, as 58 percent of our bridges are over 50 years old. There’s much, much more – including $55 billion to support clean drinking water and address PFAS contamination; $20 billion for airports of all sizes, allowing terminals from Portland to Presque Isle to access needed funds; and nearly $17 billion to strengthen the nation’s ports.

Critically, this legislation also acts on what I view as America’s two biggest national security imperatives: climate change and bolstering America’s cybersecurity. The legislation invests $65 billion in the nation’s grid and power systems to increase reliability and boosts clean energy technologies, puts more than $47 billion into resiliency to address cybersecurity risks and the impacts of climate change, and strengthens federal agencies charged with defending America in cyberspace. The nation will be safer because of this bill.

It’s nearly impossible to capture the sheer magnitude of good this bill will do for Maine people; in addition to the above, the IIJA also includes the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak, funding to for clean school buses and ferries, and billions to address legacy pollution in towns across the country The list goes on and on – but it’s equally important to note that this critical spending is paid for, through a combination including repurposing unspent COVID relief dollars, targeted user fees for corporations, and increased tax enforcement on cryptocurrencies. The legislation will also generate increased tax revenue in future years by spurring the economic growth in our own communities and homes.

The work isn’t done, but it’s worth pausing to recognize what we just accomplished: a bipartisan bill passed through the Senate to deliver on America’s most vital infrastructure needs, support our communities, and create good jobs. I’m extremely proud to have played a part in this bill – and ready to keep pushing so we can get this legislation over the finish line.


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