Business leaders celebrate coming glut of federal funds for infrastructure

By: - November 22, 2021 6:55 am

Andre DeMeo practices on a combination backhoe at the IUOE 825 training center in Dayton, NJ. Apprentices learn their trade and more experienced members learn, update, and expand their skill sets. (Amanda Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

New Jersey and national business leaders are celebrating coming investments following the signing of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is expected to bring tens of billions in federal dollars to the Garden State.

The state is expected to receive nearly $6.9 billion in federal dollars for road and highway improvements, U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker said last week, with another $1.1 billion dedicated to New Jersey’s flagging bridges.

The bill sets aside tens of billions of dollars for rail projects. Those funds can be used to complete the $11.6 billion Gateway Project, which includes new trans-Hudson tunnels to replace the crumbling North River Tunnels.

“The Gateway Tunnel, we know what that means for the Northeast Corridor. I think this could be a real big deal in New Jersey,” said John Harmon, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Every member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, including Republican Reps. Jeff Van Drew and Chris Smith, voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, which passed the House in a 228-206 vote that fell mostly along party lines earlier this month.

Only 13 Republicans backed the bill, and six Democrats voted against the measure, which President Joe Biden signed last week.

The state is expected to receive about $4.2 billion in transit funding over the next five fiscal years, and it’ll get at least $100 million to expand high-speed broadband access.

“If we didn’t have members from both sides of the aisle stepping up, we’d still be complaining about the lack of infrastructure investment rather than talking about the projects that are now about to be started,” Neil Bradley, chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters Friday.

While New Jersey is slated to receive roughly $15 billion in federal dollars, the final number could be far higher.

In addition to the funds dedicated to the Garden State, the infrastructure bill appropriates tens of billions in national funding to rail, water, and environmental cleanup projects, with additional funding for flood protection.

Amtrak is set to receive $30 billion for its Northeast Corridor line, which runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston, connecting many of the East Coast’s major cities, including Trenton and Newark, among others.

Another $11 billion is dedicated to capital improvement grants that could be used to fund Gateway.

The bill dedicates nearly $37 billion to water infrastructure improvements. Those funds include $15 billion to replace lead water pipes, with another $11.7 billion dedicated to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which can pay for the construction of wastewater treatment plants and stormwater drainage systems, among other things.

The infrastructure bill sets aside $3.5 billion each for flood resilience and weatherization, with $5 billion dedicated to Superfund remediation. New Jersey has more Superfund sites than any other state in the nation.

Finally, $2 billion will go toward cybersecurity hardening.

States will competitively bid for funding in the federal tranches, though it’s likely cross-state projects like Gateway will be regarded more favorably than projects confined to a single state, Bradley said.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.