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Op-Ed | Let’s give the Biden administration the credit it’s due for big infrastructure wins

Joe Biden
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

It’s no secret that when a new administration enters the White House, it is immediately evaluated by the promises made during the election campaign. The case has been no different for President Biden. Since being elected nearly two years ago, and especially as we approach the midterms, President Biden has been fiercely judged for his ability to fulfill his lofty goals in stifling COVID, protecting reproductive rights, making inroads in improving the environment, creating jobs and more. In some areas the delivery on his promises is more apparent, and in others, we eagerly await his next development.  

One area that President Biden has exceeded expectations is in keeping his promises on infrastructure. While these developments have been well-covered in the media, a true grasp of President Biden’s accomplishments gets lost in all the noise of our highly politicized climate. The progress this administration has made on this front is truly unprecedented and must be credited as such.  

The $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the bipartisan bill President Biden officially signed into law late last year, is a historic feat that will fund the rebuilding of crumbling roads and bridges, the strengthening of our nation’s resilience to climate change, and help provide high-speed internet to every family.  

In New York alone, over $13 billion in highway funding, nearly $2 billion in bridge repairs, $685 million in airport upgrades and $9.8 billion in public transportation improvements will be awarded. This crucial funding will greenlight thousands of projects throughout the state.  

Most significantly, these projects will drive the creation of millions of good-paying union jobs with benefits through high labor standards, including Davis Bacon prevailing wage, encouragement of equitable hiring policies, and expansion of “Buy America” policies. Combined with President Biden’s Build Back Framework, this bipartisan infrastructure package will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years, nationwide. The large influx of demand for skilled workers will open the door for workforce development initiatives – another area of strength for the Biden administration – providing working class people from communities across the country, including rural communities, communities of color, and disability communities, an entry path to a sustainable and fulfilling career and the middle class.  

As the United States economy continues to bounce back from the challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic, investments like the ones made through this bill in critical infrastructure will be key in keeping our country’s future on the right track. Infrastructure projects are leading generators of middle-class career opportunities and union jobs that allow hardworking Americans to pull themselves out of poverty and support their families while playing a role in building our country’s future.  

President Biden’s policies and recently enacted law such as the IIJA and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will benefit all workers and all Americans, not just members of the unionized construction industry. When our country’s roadways, bridges, airports, electrical grid and more are properly updated and maintained, it improves the quality of life for all Americans. This also creates a ripple effect of economic boom, as the millions of Americans who enter the middle class through the jobs created will have more spending power, which will then boost local, regional, and national economy. 

Another key benefit of this bipartisan infrastructure bill is the clean energy projects it will fund. If we truly care about our nation’s future and the hopes of the next generation, we must address the climate crisis head on. President Biden’s initiatives to fund EV charging stations, improve the resiliency of our grids, harden our infrastructure to climate change, and remediate our environment is a consequential step in not only adapting to our changing planet, but also preventing further damage.  

The Biden Administration is driven to return the United States to its position as a leader in innovation. President Biden’s ability to garner bipartisan support for this historic bill and the funding it allows for will enable us to reestablish ourselves as an exemplary leader in modern and clean infrastructure. As we approach midterms and two years into President Biden’s term, it cannot be overstated just how significant the fulfillment of this promise will be. The creation of good-paying union jobs with benefits, much-needed economic stimulation and improvement of day-to-day life for working class Americans throughout the country will be palpable, and we have President Biden to thank for pushing these ambitious goals over the finish line.  

Gary LaBarbera is the president of the New York City and New York State Building and Construction Trades Council.

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