After a long battle of wills between moderates and progressives in Congress, one of Democrats’ priority bills passed the House late Friday night, paving the way for the president to sign the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law.
House lawmakers passed the bill, formally titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, around 11:30 p.m. on Friday in a vote of 226 to 208. This approval in the House came nearly two months after the Senate first approved the bill, and that Senate vote happened after nearly five months of back-and-forth between President Biden and Senate Republicans.
The 2,702-page bill allocates funds to key areas like repairing roads and bridges and investments in public transit, Amtrak, broadband internet, the electric grid, electric vehicles, clean drinking water, Great Lakes restoration, airports and transportation safety programs.
Now that the bill has passed in its final form, here’s what Minnesota stands to get from the new federal infrastructure funding.
Roads, buses and pipes
Of the roughly $1 trillion in the infrastructure bill, Minnesota is set to receive an estimated $6.8 billion.
The bulk of that funding is for roads and bridges: Minnesota is set to receive $4.5 billion for federal-aid highway programs and $302 million for bridge replacement and repairs over a five year period. (In a 2018 report, the Minnesota Department of Transportation estimated it would have $1 billion per year to invest in highways for the next 20 years; the new federal funding would approximately double that amount for five years.)
In October 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded Minnesota’s roads in its Infrastructure Report Card at a “D+,” bridges a “C” and transit a “C-.” Overall the state got a “C” grade for its infrastructure. Minnesota’s to-do list has been growing for years. Minnesota has 661 bridges and over 4,986 miles of highway that the White House considers to be in poor condition.
Minnesota will also receive $818 million over five years to improve public transportation options across the state. A White House memo noted that 11 percent of trains and other transit vehicles in Minnesota are “past useful life,” and some of this money will likely be used to update existing transit systems.
After roads and transit, one of the biggest areas funded by the infrastructure bill is safe drinking water. Minnesota will receive $680 million over five years to “improve water infrastructure” and “ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities,” according to the White House. Some specifics outlined in the bill are a program to increase wastewater efficiency, creating resiliency in clean water infrastructure and increasing the efficiency of small public water treatment facilities.
More funds will come to Minnesota for the creation of more widespread broadband internet coverage, to the tune of $100 million. Some of this money will go towards providing broadband services at schools in rural areas and closing the digital divide in more underserved areas of the state. According to the White House, this money will provide access to “the at least 83,000 Minnesotans who currently lack it.”
In hopes of advancing Minnesota’s electric vehicle infrastructure, the state will receive $68 million over five years to expand its EV charging network. The bill prescribes this money to be used for creating a stronger network of charging infrastructure, funding maintenance of charging stations and creating data sharing platforms for EV charging networks. $68 million is a relatively small investment compared to the rest of Minnesota’s expected funds, but experts say the investment will be crucial to areas in rural Minnesota where electric vehicles and charging stations are not as common.
Minnesota can also expect to receive $20 million over five years to protect against wildfires, as well as $17 million to protect against cyberattacks. Current estimates also predict that Minnesota will receive around $297 million for airport infrastructure development over five years. This money can be used to repair and maintain air traffic control towers and update airport terminals. Funds can be used for major hub airports like Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and smaller ones like Duluth International Airport.
Of particular interest to Minnesota is funding in the bill for the “reconnecting communities pilot program.” In Minnesota, money from the bill could be used to revamp the I-94 corridor between St. Paul and Minneapolis, reconnecting areas like the Rondo neighborhood, much of which was destroyed by the construction of I-94 in the 1960s. However, the money that was originally set aside for this provision has been reduced from its original goal of $20 billion to a much smaller $500 million over the span of five years, and it’s not clear which communities will be targeted for these funds.
How the money gets to the state
It’s important to note that the numbers above are just estimates from the White House; the money will actually reach the state through various grant programs administered by different federal agencies.
For example, when it comes to road and bridge money, federal funding is administered by the Department of Transportation, which then issues grants to states. Most of this money will then go to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to be spent on specific projects.
The calculations that determine how much money Minnesota and other states will receive is set by federal statute and can vary over time if lawmakers decide to update or change spending models. But some factors, like a state’s population or how many big cities a state has, remain fairly constant in funding calculations.
And other considerations, like the size of a state’s public transportation system, seems to have influenced fund distribution as well: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are expected to receive around $15 billion for public transit, which is 24 percent of the nationwide total (individual state allocations can be found here). The administration clearly prioritized those three states’ transit infrastructure, which, at least in the case of New York, has become fairly run-down in recent years as the city struggled to pay for repairs.
For more information on funding formulas, the Federal Transit Administration (a department of the Transportation Department) has several flow charts that show how formulas from the FAST Act determine grant size.
The structure for the infrastructure bill is set, though there might be some small changes as funding gets hammered out, but the politics surrounding the passage of the bill were tumultuous, especially among Minnesota’s representatives.
How Minnesota’s delegation voted on the bill
Overall, the infrastructure bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote, with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans against. In the Minnesota delegation, all four Republicans voted against the bill.
“No one wants an infrastructure bill more than me,” Rep. Pete Stauber said after the vote. “Regrettably, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat leaders made it abundantly clear that the $1.2 trillion Senate infrastructure bill is inextricably linked to their bloated multi-trillion-dollar tax-and-spend package.” Stauber said that he “will not be complicit in paving a destructive and irreversible path towards socialism,” in reference to the Build Back Better Act, a separate budget bill still being negotiated that includes funding for things like universal child care and Medicare expansion.
(In a separate press release Friday, Stauber touted a $3.3 million investment by the federal Economic Development Administration, part of the CARES Act, in the Northeast Service Cooperative, which is building fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in his district.)
Among Democrats in the Minnesota delegation, only Rep. Ilhan Omar broke ranks with her party, joining Republicans in voting against the bill.
Omar and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have pushed for the infrastructure bill to be tied to the Build Back Better Act. Since that did not happen, Omar and some members of the progressive caucus voted “no” on the infrastructure bill.
“From the beginning, I have been clear that I would not be able to support the infrastructure bill without a vote on the Build Back Better Act,” Omar, the whip of the Progressive Caucus, said in a statement after the vote. “Passing the infrastructure bill without passing the Build Back Better Act first risks leaving behind child care, paid leave, health care, climate action, housing, education, and a road map to citizenship.”