How Maine benefits from the Infrastructure Bill

How Maine benefits from the Infrastructure Bill

AUGUSTA — In November, Congress and the White House came together, did their job, and came up with a way to support this country’s infrastructure. Democrats and Republicans spent months negotiating to pass a bill they could agree on. The Infrastructure Deal invests in roads, bridges, rails, drinking water, internet access, climate resiliency, and investments in communities we’ve often neglected. Every community across this country will feel the impacts of this bill.

While my colleagues and I in the Maine Legislature make some progress to fund necessary investments in our state infrastructure, the federal government has not always upheld its side of the bargain. This has unfortunately led to too much of our infrastructure falling short of where it needs to be, from potholes in our roads, crumbling bridges and poor internet connections. The Infrastructure Deal is a massive investment across every type of infrastructure, and here is some of what it means for Maine.

There are significant allocations for roads and bridges, including the most extensive investment in bridges since the construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. In addition, the federal government has promised to invest in water infrastructure to eliminate lead pipes, focusing on communities that are most in need. The Infrastructure Deal pledges to ensure that every American has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet and lower costs to make sure all of us can get online.

Climate change is one of the most significant crises facing our global community. The federal government is making a crucial investment in the resilience of infrastructure systems to combat extreme weather conditions. The bipartisan deal makes landmark investments to modernize and expand public transit opportunities across the country to help cut down on greenhouse emissions. The deal makes the greatest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak nearly 50 years ago and the largest overall investment in public transit ever. The infrastructure deal also promises to deliver clean, reliable energy across the country by investing in the nation’s power grid, something that I’ve been calling for extensively for years.

So, what does this mean for our state? The infrastructure package includes around $2.37 billion of direct funding in Maine over the next five years. Over half of that is going toward federal highway funds, which will repair our bridges and roads. The next largest investment goes to Maine’s water infrastructure. This means repairs to our drinking water lines and sewage lines. These new investments are a great start to a massive undertaking to ensure all Mainers have safe, healthy drinking water.

Around $100 million is dedicated to building out reliable, high-speed internet connections, on top of $149 million already designated from the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March. This is the most money Maine’s internet expansion has ever received. Thousands of Mainers do not have high-speed internet services, which severely impacts access to education, health care and economic growth in our most rural regions. For too long public investment in broadband infrastructure has gone into the coffers of the large corporate legacy providers. They overcharge and under-deliver. When we sell something and only give half of what was sold it’s called theft; shouldn’t that apply to our pseudo utilities as well?! I want to make sure the assets that this money pays for serve the people it was meant to serve, not have a disproportionate share be wasted on unnecessary expenses and excess profits. I will also do my best to make sure that the towns that want to set up broadband networks are not stopped by the greed of the for-profit companies. Customer-owned utilities give the greatest return for money invested, especially since reliability and customer service are forgotten concepts at the current large corporate providers underserving Maine.

This spring, I voted to pass legislation to establish the Maine Connectivity Authority and expand connections to high-speed internet across Maine. Models that invest in the public give Mainers the greatest return for their money. This massive investment in infrastructure comes at a crucial point as the funds and the organizing efforts are meeting so we can give all Mainers affordable, high-speed internet. That’s why I want to make sure the physical infrastructure assets that this money pays for remain the property of the taxpayers that purchase them.

I know that the issues mentioned here are important to everyday life in many ways. I promise to work hard to make sure the money is spent wisely and has the desired effects.

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