Biden administration touts NC investments to kick off “Infrastructure Week”

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President Biden speaks about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at the West Side Rail Yard in New York on Jan. 31, 2023. (Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor’s Office)

A $110 million grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will fund the replacement of the 60-year-old Alligator River Bridge in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. 

Last year, Asheville Regional Airport, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, broke ground on a $15 million project to replace its 62-year-old air traffic control tower. A $35 million grant will fund a terminal expansion project that will bring the airport into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

This past December, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $1 billion high speed rail line connecting Raleigh to Richmond that is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities.

These are all tangible impacts that President Joe Biden’s administration, with the passage of four major infrastructure and clean energy laws in 2021 and 2022, is having in North Carolina and across the country, but polls show that the message has been slow to sink in with voters. 

On Monday, the White House announced that it has allocated nearly $454 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to over 56,000 projects around the country since the passage of the $1 trillion bill in 2021.

North Carolina is set to receive $9.4 billion in funding from the law for 512 projects, according to the White House. The funding includes about $633 million for clean water projects, with $175 million going toward replacing toxic lead pipes, according to a fact sheet released by the White House on Monday.  

“While ‘Infrastructure Week’ became an empty punch line during the prior administration, the Biden administration has committed to delivering infrastructure decade and that will benefit communities for generations to come,” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Natalie Quillian said during a call with reporters on Friday. 

The administration hopes to convince Americans that Biden’s programs are improving their lives, and as the president struggles in the polls, getting that message to voters in battleground states like North Carolina before the November election will be key to his reelection.   

Quillian highlighted programs such as rail service, clean drinking water, and the provision of internet connectivity to underserved communities as areas in which the administration has made significant investments across the country. 

Earlier this year, Biden spoke at Abbotts Creek Community Center in Raleigh to promote his administration’s investments in high-speed internet for the hardest-to-reach areas of the state. Today, more than 900,000, or 1 in 5, households in North Carolina have access to affordable high-speed internet but unless Congress extends funding for the program by the end of this month, many of these households could lose access to this service.

As the November election approaches, though, the massive investments made by the administration might not be implemented quickly enough to sway voter opinions. 

As reported by Politico, only 17 percent of the $1.1 trillion in funding provided by Congress has been spent to date.  

“We are working as quickly as possible while also being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said a senior administration official. “This is a huge undertaking that involves not just the federal government, but also our state and local partners.” 

The official also noted that another reason for the delay is that Congress drafted the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to release funds annually over a five-year period. 

“So we are working as quickly as we can to get money out the door in the year that it was appropriated and for the purpose that it was appropriated. But there’s more funding that’s still to come” in fiscal 2025 and 2026, the official said. 

This week, senior White House officials will travel across the country to promote these programs in hopes of convincing voters that the programs are having a direct impact. 

The Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su will also be in Raleigh this week to talk about investments in workforce development.   

North Carolina has become a key focus for Biden’s campaign which hopes to flip the state to the Democratic presidential candidate for only the third time since 1968. The campaign has opened 11 offices in the state and had 40 staffers in place at the end of April. The president has visited the state three times this year to promote his programs. 

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