The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law by President Joe Biden last November, includes over $550 billion in new federal funding to be spent over the next 10 years. Originally known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill,” the law targets many long-standing infrastructure needs, including road and bridge repair, public transit investments, updating the nation’s electrical grid, water management, climate resiliency, broadband, cybersecurity, and other energy-related projects.
The IIJA represents an enormous bipartisan achievement on the part of the 117th Congress, as recent administrations have been unable to garner an agreement from Congress to address the country’s crumbling infrastructure. And America’s infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineer’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave a “C-” grade to its present state. Though that rating has increased slightly recently, there are still a multitude of projects around the country that need to be addressed. Some of the key transportation-related findings in the Report Card included:
- There is a water main break every two minutes
- 43% of public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition
- The location and condition of 10,000 miles of levees are “unknown”
Opportunities for the private sector
As with many infrastructure and transportation bills passed by Congress, the IIJA uses grants as the main mechanisms to distribute federal funds. These funds flow to state and local governments around the country, which will be the primary entities to allocate and oversee the funding. This means transportation-specific contracting and subcontracting opportunities will be plentiful, particularly related to surface transportation projects that will repair and expand the nation’s roadways, bridges, and railroad crossings. Some of the transportation grant programs include:
- Bridge Investment Grant Program: repair and replace of deficient bridges
- RAISE Grant Program: increase funding for the RAISE program
- INFRA Grant Programs: increase funding for locally and regional significant projects
- Surface Transportation Privative Activity Bonds: public-private partnerships to supplement future projects
- Prioritization Process Pilot Program: support data-driven approaches to transportation planning
- PROTECT Grant Programs: improves the resiliency of infrastructure
- Pedestrian Grant Program: prevent pedestrian injuries and acts of terrorism
- Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program: improving transportation facilities
- Multi-State Freight Corridor Planning: promote the mobility of goods for states and localities
- Mobility Transportation Grant Programs: implementing innovative transportation technologies and data
- SMART Grant Program: improve transportation efficiency and safety
Alternative Fuel Corridor Grant Program: deploy publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure
Implementation will be key
While the IIJA has signified broad agreement on the need to repair and upgrade the country’s infrastructure, proper implementation of the law will be essential to achieve good outcomes. Robert Shea, National Managing Principal for Public Policy along with Lisa Walkush, National Managing Principal for Industry at Grant Thornton and The Signal Group’s Managing Director Charles Cooper discussed the details of the IIJA and its implementation in a recent Grant Thornton webcast, “The Age of Infrastructure: Opportunities for the Private Sector.”
Because implementation of the law will determine not only which specific projects receive funding but also which communities benefit, the Biden administration issued an executive order aimed to ensure equity and efficiency in implementation of federal investments so underserved communities around the country that historically have been overlooked can benefit from this new spending.
In the executive order, the Biden Administration also created the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force to “coordinate effective implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” Former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu will oversee the implementation of the IIJA and, on being announced, said, “Our work will require strong partnerships across the government and with state and local leaders, business and labor to create good-paying jobs and rebuild America for the middle class.”
The IIJA includes a lot of moving parts, so understanding its scope and impact can be a daunting task. Private sector entities need to ensure their stakeholders grasp the magnitude of this law and take advantage of any opportunities they can to grow their businesses, create jobs, and improve their communities.
“These funds are going to start moving very quickly,” Cooper said, “so organizations that want to participate and partner on these funding opportunities need to really start thinking about it now and learning about the requirements of these projects and monitoring how these projects are rolling out.”
Lisa Walkush is Grant Thornton’s national managing principal of Industry and a member of the firm’s Senior Leadership Team.
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