Infrastructure spending: Six projects to remake the country

In recent weeks, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg began announcing the first major projects to secure $1 trillion in Infrastructure Act funding.

The package handed Buttigieg and his team $120 billion to invest in projects across the country, unusually high discretion in a system that tends to leave most transportation decisions to state and local leaders. The U.S. Department of Transportation is prioritizing projects that would improve safety amid a spike in crash fatalities, help reduce carbon emissions and create a fairer transportation system, especially in black and Hispanic communities. which have historically been neglected.

As infrastructure money flows, Buttigieg’s choices will shape America for generations

Applicants for the money often try to achieve several of these goals, proposing, for example, to renovate a road in a poor neighborhood in the hope of making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

These six projects that have recently received funding show the scale of the expenditure, which is likely to reach thousands of communities nationwide.

Washington County, Maine – Downeast Coastal US 1 Rehabilitation Project

Federal funding: $33 Million Infrastructure Grant to Rebuild America (INFRA)

What: Renovate 68 miles of rural highway to improve safety and storm resistance and prepare for electric vehicle charging

About the project: Route 1 winds a winding path along the coast of Maine, serving the area’s fishing and lobster industries. The winding road, combined with high speeds, makes the road dangerous, said Joyce Taylor, chief engineer with the Maine Department of Transportation.

“Because it’s not crowded, people tend to drive pretty fast,” she said.

His department is responsible for a sprawling road network, so officials rely on federal grants to make upgrades. This means that when the opportunity arises, Taylor said, the department tries to put in place a multitude of improvements at once.

The Downeast project will install new rumble strips and guardrails for added safety; widen the shoulders to accommodate cyclists; improve culverts to facilitate salmon passage and allow stormwater to drain; and possibly setting up broadband conduits to prepare the route for electric vehicle charging.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when you get one of these grants,” Taylor said.

Flagstaff, Arizona – Downtown Mile Safety and Connectivity Improvement Project

Federal funding: INFRA grant of $32.5 million

What: Construct new pedestrian and bicycle crossings under the Southern Transcon Rail Corridor and make track improvements.

About the project: Flagstaff grew up around the railroad after the tracks were laid more than a century ago. Today, up to 100 trains run through the city center daily, slowing traffic and cutting off neighborhoods from each other.

Christine Cameron, project manager in the city government, said local leaders had been looking to improve access between the two sides of the city for 20 years. With an administration in Washington that has made reconnecting communities a priority, as well as the support of the BNSF railroad, she said they finally have the money to do so.

“We were really happy that this infra bipartisan bill was supported and passed to provide this opportunity,” Cameron said.

The project will include the construction of two new pedestrian underpasses under the railway tracks, creating connections for what Cameron called areas of “persistent poverty”, upgrading a road underpass and installing pedestrian barriers at two crossings. . The silver will also add more capacity to the railroad itself.

Atlanta — Electric Buses, Charging Infrastructure and Training Programs

Federal funding: $19.3 million low- or zero-emission bus grant

What: The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) will purchase 25 electric buses and train workers to operate and maintain them.

About the project: The Infrastructure Act provided $5.5 billion to help transit agencies transition their bus fleets to battery and hydrogen, more than six times the previous level of funding. MARTA’s project is typical, aiming to field a fleet of battery-powered buses and ensure the agency has the workers to maintain them.

The switch to electric buses is expected to reduce carbon emissions and reduce other types of pollution spewed out by diesel engines. But this change represents a challenge for workers who have spent their careers maintaining these engines. The Infrastructure Act authorized the use of federal funds to help with training, and MARTA plans to launch a two-year apprenticeship program and other educational opportunities.

“Even though the technology is different, it’s going to give you training to maintain that and grow,” said Britt Dunams, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732, which represents MARTA workers.

Munster, Ind. – Complete streets of Ridge Road

Federal funding: $17.1 Million Grant for Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE)

What: Redevelopment of a main road to include a cycle and pedestrian path, as well as stormwater management

About the project: City manager Dustin Anderson said Munster, a Chicago suburb, grew up in typical 20th-century, car-centric fashion. And so on Ridge Road, with its schools and small businesses, he said, the people you might expect to see walking are mostly absent.

The project aims to change that, taking what is called a ‘complete streets’ approach which will redesign the road to slow down cars and make it safer and more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists. City leaders hope this will result in safety improvements on a corridor that saw 600 accidents between 2016 and 2020.

The road redesign will also coincide with the expansion of a passenger rail connection to Chicago and is intended to control the rush of stormwater during heavy rains.

“Sometimes you’re at bat and you just connect,” Anderson said. “You have a transportation secretary talking about active transportation and transit, you have the first rail extension in 100 years that is adjacent to the project area.”

El Paso and East Texas – Texas Active Transportation Network

Federal funding: $25 million RAISE grant

What: Construction of segments of long-distance bike and pedestrian paths in El Paso and rural East Texas

About the project: In rural East Texas and suburban El Paso, leaders see bike paths as a way to connect communities and make the region a destination for bicycle tourism, combining new infrastructure transportation to recreational opportunities.

The North East Texas Trail spans seven counties and offers an alternative to risky driving along rural highways.

“It’s designed to connect these communities together,” said Eric Gleason, director of the public transportation division at the Texas Department of Transportation.

In El Paso, advocates of a 70-mile trail through the county have been working on the project for 20 years. Jana Renner, senior program manager at the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, said that in the past, grants could cover a short segment of about a mile, but the infrastructure law has opened up new opportunities.

“We’re really excited for these opportunities to arise, but there’s still a huge change to be made to get people to cycle and walk more and less in their cars,” Renner said.

Hennepin County, Minnesota — Lake Street Multimodal Improvements

Federal funding: $12 million RAISE grant

What: Preparing a hallway, scarred by protests after the murder of George Floyd, for bus rapid transit service

About the project: The transit agency serving Minneapolis is investing heavily in bus rapid transit, an approach that aims to combine the flexibility of bus service and bring it to speeds comparable to light rail. But that means redesigning the streets to make sure buses don’t get stuck in traffic.

So on Lake Street — the site of unrest after a police officer murdered George Floyd — Hennepin County is reconfiguring the road to prepare for a new bus rapid transit line and make pedestrian safety improvements , hoping to better connect a community whose struggles have laid bare the unequal treatment of black neighborhoods.

“This really is a critical corridor,” said Carla Stueve, the county’s director of transportation project delivery.

Buttigieg visited the region in August on a tour of infrastructure projects across the country, saying investment in the street was also “investment in all businesses along this corridor”.

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