How Vermont will spend money from the federal infrastructure bill

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 6:32 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Leaders call it a once-in-a-generation investment. Vermont is preparing for its share of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan which is on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk.

At least $2.2 billion will be pumped into roads, bridges, waterways, broadband and electric vehicles.

Torrential downpours washed out Butternut Hill Road in Waitsfield this summer. It took weeks to rebuild it.

Between 3,000 miles of road, 1,300 bridges and 60,000 culverts, state leaders say the need to maintain infrastructure is constant.

The passage of the federal infrastructure bill means big bucks are coming to Vermont for our roads and our bridges broadband and more.

Like other stimulus packages, Vermont will get a big slice of the pie:

  • $1.4 billion for highways
  • $350 million for water and sewer
  • $225 million for bridges
  • $100 million for broadband
  • $83 million for public transportation
  • $40 million for lake cleanup

Vermont gets $1.1 billion every five years for roads and bridges. This bill would bring in $1.6 billion over the next five years on top of the $1.1 billion.

“We are going to be able to amplify the level of work that we are currently doing significantly so that we may not have been able to accomplish this for decades,” Vt. Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said.

In the plan, there are also big investments in our ports of entry, weatherization and Amtrak.

The price tag and how to pay for it down the road was a difficult pill for some lawmakers to swallow amid concerns over inflation, but Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy says it will be worth it.

“Consider what the alternative is. The alternative is to have waterways, roads and bridges deteriorate and then cost twice as much to fix them up,” said Leahy, D-Vermont.

The projects are also slated to create hundreds of jobs.

Labor shortages could pose a challenge for putting the money to use but Sen. Bernie Sanders is confident that the state will find a way.

“I think if we are smart and we work together we can get it done,” said Sanders, I-Vermont.

While physical infrastructure is moving along, negotiations are still ongoing over the $1.75 trillion “social infrastructure bill” packed with child care, Medicare, child tax credits and climate change mitigation measures.

Key Democrats in the Senate still have concerns over the price tag. And Sanders needs their support as not a single Republican suppports it. He predicts a vigorous debate when it reaches the Senate.

“At the end of the day, if I have anything to say about it, this bill will be completely paid for by demanding wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” Sanders said.

Sanders says a vote on the social bill in the House could come next week.

As for the infrastructure bill, Congress is on recess for Veterans Day, meaning President Biden is likely to sign the bill next week.

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