BACK IN 2009, Congress passed the Obama/Biden administration’s $800 billion “shovel-ready” infrastructure plan as a way to stimulate the economy and create good-paying jobs fixing America’s crumbling roads, bridges, airports and shipyards.
So why, just 11 years later, are our roads, bridges, airports and shipyards still crumbling and in need of trillions of dollars in new federal spending?
The answer is that only $98.3 billion of the $800 billion stimulus bill was specifically designated for transportation infrastructure projects, and of that amount, only about $27.5 billion (or just 3.5 percent!) wound up actually being spent on them. Critics pointed out that President Obama couldn’t find a single shovel-ready project in the country because they take years, and sometimes even decades, to get through the bureaucratic red tape.
So if Congress manages to pass President Joe Biden’s proposed $4.1 trillion infrastructure plan (and that’s still a big “if” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says that no Republican senators will vote for it in the 50-50 divided Senate), where would all that “infrastructure” money be spent this time?
Only $621 billion in Biden’s plan would be spent directly on transportation. Electric vehicles would get the bulk of that amount ($174 billion), followed by roads and bridges ($115 billion); public transit ($85 billion); passenger and freight rail ($80 billion); disaster resilience ($50 billion); airports ($25 billion); road safety ($20 billion); transportation projects in underserved communities ($20 billion); waterways and ports ($17 billion) and $30 billion for “other.”
The remaining $3.4 trillion would go to a host of other priorities not traditionally considered to be infrastructure. (Even child care is now called “infrastructure” by some members of Congress.)
However, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the nation would need to invest the entire $4.1 trillion in its surface transportation system over the next two decades to prevent congestion delays from costing Americans up to $6.2 trillion in lost economic output.
Virginia already has billions of dollars of unfunded infrastructure projects. The Fredericksburg region alone has a $7 billion transportation funding deficit. If the commonwealth just got a 50th of the proposed $4.1 trillion federal spending in Biden’s plan, it could finally fix the crumbling roads, bridges and other surface transportation infrastructure that keeps commerce flowing not only in Virginia, but along the entire East Coast.
We’ve been down this road before. The Obama/Biden administration’s massive “shovel-ready” infrastructure spending program did not fix the nation’s infrastructure, and even failed in its attempt to lower unemployment and stimulate the economy. In fact, each job created during that time cost taxpayers $200,000—with little to show for it a decade later.
That’s why local and state leaders should insist that our congressional delegation push for changes to make Biden’s new and even more massive “infrastructure” plan live up to its name, or vote it down if it doesn’t.