The political drama surrounding the infrastructure bill has overshadowed its substance. But make no mistake about it: The more than $1 trillion package passed by Congress last week is monumental.

The infrastructure bill, championed by President Biden and supported by nearly all Democrats and some Republicans, will be felt in every corner of the country. It comes after decades when roads, bridges and other public infrastructure have been allowed to deteriorate, and sets the table for the future.

It may not have everything that people wanted, or even everything it needed. But the investment the infrastructure bill represents should not be dismissed.

The bill, passed by the House late Friday, includes more than $1 trillion in spending. To put this into context, that’s more than double what was allocated as part of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created the interstate highway system, adjusted for today’s dollars.

There’s $110 billion for roads and bridges, with the $40 billion for bridges the single biggest investment since the highway system was built.

There’s $39 billion to expand and improve public transit, aiming in part at a nationwide bus maintenance backlog measuring in the tens of thousands. There’s an additional $66 billion for Amtrak, the largest federal investment in the rail service since it was founded 50 years ago.

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There’s billions more for electric-vehicle charging stations, airports, broadband internet, improving airports, and upgrading water and wastewater systems – including mitigation for lead pipes and PFAS, or “forever” chemicals, which have poisoned residents and destroyed property values all over the country, including here in Maine.

Maine itself expects to get $2.37 billion over five years in direct funding from the bill, including $390 million for clean water. The state expects $1.3 billion for highways alone, plus $225 million for bridges and $74 million for airports.

Everyone who’s had to dodge potholes and degraded shoulders while traveling through Maine knows that money is needed, not only so that residents and tourists can get around, but also for trade and commerce.

Preserving clean water in Maine, too, is going to take an estimated $59 million a year for the next two decades as sewer systems need repair and replacement.

And while communities throughout Maine have been trying to develop the high-speed internet networks that are a necessity for life nowadays, they haven’t had the funding necessary – until now.

The infrastructure bill will send at least $100 million to Maine for broadband expansion, along with the $149 million from the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan – the most Maine has ever had to build the networks communities desperately need to compete for businesses and residents.

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If the amount of money being discussed looks like a lot, it’s only because the United States has for decades now failed to invest in infrastructure, leaving it degraded, not to mention far behind the times.

The infrastructure bill makes up for a lot of lost time, and provides enough funding for communities to build the things they need for a healthy future, if it is spent right: a solid transportation system that keeps pedestrians and other non-vehicle traffic in mind, public transportation that truly serves the public, affordable high-speed internet everywhere it is needed and sewage systems that keep our waterways healthy and clean.

The infrastructure bill uses taxpayer dollars to set the conditions for prosperity. It will tangibly improve lives.

Whatever it took to pass the infrastructure bill, it is nothing short of historic.


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