Pennsylvania Capital-Star: ‘A generational investment’: Pa’s Congressional Dems tout infrastructure bill’s benefits back home

A new rail line connecting Scranton to New York City. Repairs to the bustling Route 22 in the Lehigh Valley. Money for mass-transit, including SEPTA in Philadelphia. Expanded broadband that will connect rural Pennsylvanians to tele-health services. And money to pay for cleaning up so-called “forever chemicals” around a former military installation in suburban Philadelphia.

Those are just some of the projects that will benefit from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that Congress sent to President Joe Biden’s desk last week, Democratic members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.

“We all know, our roads, our bridges, our seaports, our water systems, so many need investment, they need to be rebuilt,” U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, said during the call organized by the state Democratic Party. “These are the things that make our country run, and they have fallen into disrepair. We have had infrastructure week after infrastructure week. And I am proud to say that we have delivered.”

Cartwright’s latter comment was a not-so-subtle jab at former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly declared “infrastructure week” in Washington during his four years in the White House, only to leave office without winning congressional approval of major new funding.

All told, across the nation, the bill includes:

  • $351 billion for highways and bridges
  • $107 billion for transit
  • $73 billion for electric grid infrastructure
  • $66 billion for passenger rail
  • $55 billion for drinking water infrastructure
  • $42 billion for broadband deployment
  • $25 billion for airports
  • $17 billion for ports
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations
  • $7.5 billion for electric buses and ferries

Of that total, according to a statement by U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle’s, D-2nd District, office, Pennsylvania can expect to receive:

  • $11.3 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $1.6 billion for bridge replacement
  • $2.8 billion over five years to improve public transportation options across the state
  •  $171 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state
  • $49 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $26 million to protect against cyberattacks
  •  $1.4 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state and ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, whose Allentown-based district is bisected by the chronically congested Route 22, ran down a shopping list of local projects that likely will see an infusion of cash thanks to the bill, which made it onto Biden’s desk thanks to the support of 13 House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with transportation in the Lehigh Valley, and Route 22 and the widening of it is an obvious one,” Wild said. “One of the things that people don’t realize is that the side roads,” are in equal need of attention, she added.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, said the aid Pennsylvania can expect to receive represents the largest infusion of cash since Pennsylvania lawmakers approved a more than $2 billion transportation funding package under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013.

“That was my proudest vote in the Pennsylvania House, said Dean, who represented part of Montgomery County in the lower chamber from 2012 to her election in 2018. “This will go down as one of my proudest votes in all of public service.”

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, who spent decades in the state Legislature before winning his House seat in 2016, touted the bill’s benefits for SEPTA and the dozens of other mass-transit agencies across the state.

“What that means is jobs,” Evans said.

Wild agreed.

“I can’t help but think of the jobs it will create Districts like mine and Matt’s [Cartwright] and Madeleine’s [Dean] will all see an influx of really good jobs,” she said.  It will create investment and opportunity that turbocharges investment for years to come.”

Republicans such as Fitzpatrick who crossed over to vote with Democrats on the bill are now facing significant backlash within their own party for that support. Given the bill’s broad public support, “it’s quite frankly astonishing that more Republicans did not vote for it, but I am sure they will be celebrating when the money comes to their districts as though they did vote for it,” Wild added.