"C'Mon, Man": 10 Perplexing Items in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

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Posted by Isabelle Morales on Monday, August 2nd, 2021, 5:45 PM PERMALINK

The 2,700-page bipartisan infrastructure agreement, released Sunday night, includes billions in funding for roads, bridges, waterways, and more. However, unsurprisingly, it is also riddled with a number of perplexing proposals, including wasteful spending, troubling regulations, and earmarks.

Below are just a few examples of these problematic provisions.

1. Woke Trucking: The bill attempts to get women interested in trucking careers. 

In Section 23007, the bill points out how underrepresented women are in trucking; specifically, women make up only 6.6 percent of truck drivers and 12.5 percent of all workers in truck transportation.  

In response, this legislation establishes and facilitates an advisory board, the “Women of Trucking Advisory Board,” to provide education, training, conduct outreach, and recruit women into the trucking industry.  

It’s likely, however, that the lack of women representation in trucking has more to do with their lack of interest than lack of knowledge. In which case, spending taxpayer money on these efforts seems especially foolish.  

2. Encourages children to walk or bike to school in order to reduce fuel consumption and air pollution. 

Under this bill, children as young as five years old, including those with disabilities, could be encouraged to walk or bike up to two miles to school.

Specifically, in Sec. 11119, the “Safe routes to school” section, the bill establishes a program in which each state would be given at least $1,000,000 to create routes to schools, up to two miles long, for students to walk or bike on. The stated goal of this program is to encourage “a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age; and to facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.” 

Presumably, there are better ways to combat climate change than encouraging kindergartners to walk two miles to school.  

3. Spends a whopping $5 billion on “clean school buses and zero-emission school buses.” 

Section 71101 of this bill established a grant program which provides funds for the adoption of clean school buses and zero-emission school buses. 

Specifically, half of the funds would go towards “the adoption of clean school buses and zero-emission school buses,” while the other half would go towards, “the adoption of zero-emission school buses.” $1,000,000,000 is appropriated each year through 2026, costing taxpayers a total of $5,000,000,000 just for school buses. 

4. Aims to improve Amtrak’s onboard food and beverage experience. 

Section 22208 details another example of peculiar spending includes the establishment of a working group whose job it is to “provide recommendations to improve Amtrak’s onboard food and beverage service.” 

This working group must consist of individuals representing Amtrak, the labor organizations representing Amtrak employees, nonprofit organizations representing Amtrak passengers, and states that fund Amtrak routes.  

5. Appropriates $7.5 billion for a network electric vehicle charging stations. 

The bill includes $7.5 billion to develop electric vehicle charging stations across the country, despite EVs accounting for only 2 percent of new vehicle sales across the U.S. This spending on electric vehicle charging stations is a subsidy for luxury car owners - roughly 80 percent of EV owners have an annual income exceeding $100,000 and the sticker price of a new electric vehicle typically ranges from $40,000 – $80,000. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board estimates that "upward of 85 percent of EV charging occurs at home." 

6. Spends $10,000,000 on “pollinator-friendly practices." 

This bill establishes a program to provide grants to entities to “carry out activities to benefit pollinators on roadsides and highway rights-of-way, including the planting and seeding of native, locally appropriate grasses and wildflowers, including milkweed.”

Milkweed, specifically, is the plant which sustains monarch butterfly populations.

In order to save the bees and butterflies, the bill appropriates $2,000,000 each year through 2026. Grants to a specific entity can be up to $150,000.  

7. Appropriates $500,000,000 to fund colder, more porous pavement in cities. 

The bipartisan infrastructure bill establishes a discretionary grant program, the “Healthy Streets program,” to deploy cool pavements, in order to reduce pavement heat, and porous pavements, to allow water to pass through and infiltrate the subsoil. This program, detailed in Section 11406, would also fund expanded tree covering of streets.

The goals of this program are to improve air quality, mitigate “urban heat islands,” and reduce stormwater runoff.

Nonetheless, $500,000,000 in grant money for pavement is an astounding cost for something so trivial.

8. Lays the groundwork for a vehicle miles traveled tax (VMT).   

While a VMT is wildly unpopular, thus barring its inclusion in this specific bill, legislators still attempted to get as close as they could to it.  

In Section 13002, this bill establishes a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee pilot, which is supposed to demonstrate how a per-mile user fee could “restore and maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund” and “improve and maintain the surface transportation system.” This national pilot would cost $50,000,000 over the next five years. 

Further, in Section 13001, this bill incentivizes states to establish pilot programs for user fees as well through a grant program costing $75,000,000 over five years. 

These programs lay the groundwork for what would end up being an incredibly regressive, costly tax from the American public.  

9. Conducts "limousine research" and imposes several new regulations on motor vehicles.  

This legislation conducts "limousine research" and would impose new regulations making it more difficult for limousine operators to do their job. 

Section 23015 bars operators from introducing a limousine into interstate commerce unless the limousine operator has prominently disclosed in a clear and conspicuous notice the date of the most recent inspection, the results of the inspection, and any corrective action taken to ensure the vehicle passed inspection. 

10. Contains what appears to be many, many earmarks.  

The appropriations section of the bill contains funding for several niche projects, reeking of earmarks:  

  • “Mississippi River and Tributaries”, $808,000,000. 
  • $50,000,000 for the Upper Colorado River Basin. $50,000,000 shall be for endangered species recovery and conservation programs in the Colorado River Basin. 
  • For an additional amount for "Appalachian Regional Commission," $1,000,000,000 (which would greatly benefit West Virginia, home of Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)). 
  • For an additional amount for "Delta Regional Authority," $150,000,000. 
  • For an additional amount for "Denali Commission," $75,000,000 (greatly benefiting Alaska, home of Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)). 
  • For an additional amount for "Northern Border Regional Commission," $150,000,000. 
  • For an additional amount for "Southeast Crescent Regional Commission," $5,000,000. 
  • For an additional amount for "Southwest Border Regional Commission," $1,250,000. 
  • $1,717,000,000, to remain available until expended, for Geographic Programs: 
    • $1,000,000,000 shall be for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; 
    • $238,000,000 shall be for Chesapeake Bay; 
    • $24,000,000 shall be for San Francisco Bay; 
    • and many more.  

 

While the bipartisan infrastructure bill contains a notable amount of funding for roads, bridges, and other forms of infrastructure, it unfortunately was not immune to the inclusion of several wasteful provisions, problematic policies, and earmarks.  

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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