Six months ago, our leaders in Washington, D.C., did what many across the country thought unimaginable these days. They passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on a bipartisan basis, committing vital funds at a moment when communities across our nation needed it the most.
Today, states are starting to see what the investment will look like and how it will impact their constituents. From large-scale transportation projects and repairing roads and bridges to expanding access to broadband and clean water, more than $110 billion has been allocated to 4,300 specific priority projects identified for funding to date nationwide.
But as it stands, more than $1 trillion of the federal commitment remains unclaimed and industry leaders are getting antsy. Critical infrastructure projects and repairs that are shovel-ready sit waiting for the green light across the country and it's taking too long.
The stakes are incredibly high. Infrastructure and public works projects have the potential to protect communities from the impacts of climate change, expand transportation access in underserved rural areas, advance a clean energy future, develop more affordable housing and create hundreds of thousands of jobs at a time when our economy is struggling. We can’t afford to wait idly any longer. We have the money. Now it’s time to make a plan and execute.
Important steps have been taken at the federal level to ensure investments are going where they need to go. Federal officials have been tasked with overseeing project selection to protect against wasteful spending or fraud and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg launched an application process for states to submit their priority projects for a chance at obtaining funding.
What’s missing is direct engagement with the leaders who understand the landscape best. Building industry groups across the nation hold a massive amount of responsibility and value as it relates to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. From advocating for and advising on priority projects that are ready to be executed to undertaking project development down the line, our knowledge, expertise, and networks make us critical actors in the planning and execution process of this historic legislation.
There are countless developments in the works that require federal funding to reimagine our nation’s future. Across the country, industry leaders are advocating for diverse projects from the Baltimore Penn Station Redevelopment; to terminals and concourses at JFK, Salt Lake City and Orlando airports; to Virgin Voyages Cruise Ship Terminal at Port Miami.
In the New York region, transportation is a clear priority to increase access to opportunity and connect segregated communities. New York City is home to the busiest commuter hub in the nation where 600,000 daily commuters are troubled by insufficient systems, congestion and delays. Expanding the Gateway Program, the construction of new rail infrastructure that would increase capacity between Newark, New Jersey and New York Penn Station along the Northeast Corridor, would transform the commute of hundreds of thousands of people and provide access to new jobs, industries and economic opportunities, all while ensuring the stability of our nation’s economy.
The completion of the 2nd Ave Subway extension will better connect the diverse, working class community in East Harlem to the rest of the city, ending a transportation desert that has existed for more than 80 years. Likewise, ensuring our transit networks, airports, tunnels, buses and bridges under the supervision of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Metropolitan Transportation Authority are top-of-the-line and safe will keep New York attractive to tourism and competitive in the global economy. Replacing the crumbling, failing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will move people through this corridor in a way that doesn’t continue its harmful legacy of dividing neighborhoods and leaving New Yorkers to live under its ugly shadow.
This investment will translate into a robust commitment into economic growth and a stronger, more equitable future and we’re on a good path. But in the interim, people are suffering. We urge federal agencies to sit down with the advocates and leaders that understand our cities and their needs best — the building community.
Our doors are open, and our shovels are ready.
Carlo A. Scissura is the president and CEO of the New York Building Congress.