What Florida Has Gotten Out Of Biden’s Infrastructure Law (So Far)

Graphic by Francesca Daly

By Isabel Soisson

March 28, 2023

In 2021, President Biden signed the historic $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, delivering on a key piece of his economic agenda. Since then, billions of dollars have been funneled into all 50 states in order to upgrade highways, transit systems, water systems, and more.

In Florida, $8.1 billion in funding has been announced so far, and more is on the way. Here’s a look at the work that’s being done in the Sunshine State and how it helps Floridians.

Roads, Bridges, and Public Transit

In Florida, there are 408 bridges and over 3,564 miles of highway in poor condition. According to the White House, $5.2 billion in funding from the law has been allocated to Florida roads, bridges, roadway safety, and other major projects as of February.

There are over 15 million licensed drivers in the state of Florida, according to the US Department of Transportation (DOT). According to TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, it’s estimated that Florida’s deteriorated roads and bridges cost these drivers a total of $6.7 million per year.

As these roads and bridges improve, the average motorist will spend less in additional vehicle operating costs (VOC). These costs are a “result of driving on rough roads, the cost of lost time, and wasted fuel due to congestion, and the financial cost of traffic crashes.”

One effort aimed at improving Florida’s roads and bridges is the RAISE program. Grants awarded through this program “help project sponsors at the state and local levels, including municipalities, tribal governments, counties, and others complete critical freight and passenger transportation infrastructure projects.”

So far, $85.8 million has been awarded to Florida through this program.

One project being funded by the program is the replacement of the existing Park Street Terminal in Clearwater with a more energy-efficient facility. The terminal has long been overcrowded and in need of repairs. The new facility will include approximately 17 bus bays, two electric bus charging stations, a drop off area for ride hailing/sharing, and more. The DOT says that many of the improvements will not only be better for the environment, but will also address safety and accessibility concerns.

Florida is also getting funds from the INFRA program, which awards grants for freight and highway projects that “improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of freight and people in and across rural and urban areas.”

The West Central Florida Truck Parking Facility will be getting a makeover through this program. The corridor between Tampa and Orlando carries an average of 18,000 trucks daily, but currently lacks sufficient parking. The $15 million provided by the INFRA program will help build a new truck parking facility with about 120 spaces, electric charging stations, and pedestrian infrastructure to access nearby amenities.

The White House stated in February that this project will “improve safety for tired drivers and make supply chain movement more efficient.”

Florida has also been allocated $529.4 million to improve public transportation options across the state in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. This funding will most directly affect non-white households, which are 3.5 times more likely to commute via public transportation in the state of Florida.

Clean Buses, Energy, and Power

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is also set to invest billions of dollars into clean public transit and school buses over the next five years. Half of that money will be used to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. Clean-energy buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and will also reduce health risks among children and the surrounding communities.

To date, Florida has been awarded $11.8 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, which provides school districts rebates to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission models to reduce harmful emissions from older buses. Four communities in Florida received grants thanks to the program, including Mayo and Bushnell.

The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the Florida Department of Transportation, and other public transit systems in the state were separately awarded $41.9 million to improve bus service and clean transit buses through the Department of Transportation’s Low or No Emission Vehicle Program.

The infrastructure law is also set to upgrade the power infrastructure by “making the grid more resilient and building thousands of miles of new transmission lines to deliver clean, affordable electricity.” There’s additional funding to weatherize homes to improve their energy efficiency. This would lower energy costs for impacted households by an average of $372 per year, according to the Department of Energy.

Airports, Ports, and Waterways

To date, Florida has received approximately $302.1 million for replacing and modernizing airport infrastructure at airports, including the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, the Gainesville Regional Airport, and the Orlando International Airport.

According to the White House, this will help the United States become more competitive economically and create jobs. And as Airport World, the magazine of the Airports Council International, notes “ensuring that an airport has the necessary infrastructure to support the desired level of air service, including terminal facilities, runways, taxiways and air traffic control systems are crucial for being able to accommodate growth in passenger demand.”

The state’s ports and waterways are also in dire need of investment. Roughly $143.6 million has been allocated to Florida so far so that the state can address maintenance backlogs and reduce congestion and emissions near ports. Ultimately, this will help the U.S. move goods more quickly, at a lower cost.

Florida was also awarded $43.2 million for three port projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program. One of these projects includes the installation of fast charging stations and coming up with a plan to transition the Port of Jacksonville and the local maritime industry to more environmentally-friendly technologies, according to the DOT.

“America’s ports play a central role in our supply chains,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said while speaking of this project and several others in February. “We are helping make our ports safer, more efficient, and more reliable—strengthening supply chains, reducing costs for the American people, and positioning us for economic success.”

Water

There’s no arguing that clean drinking water is essential. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, including the first-ever dedicated federal funding to replace lead service lines and address dangerous PFAS chemicals, according to the White House.

As of February, $275 million in funds have been allocated for Florida to provide residents with clean and safe drinking water through the Environmental Protection Agency.

Over 40% of these funds are going towards lead pipe and service line replacement throughout the state. According to the National Resources Defense Council, there are about 200,000 lead service lines in the state of Florida.

Another $70.8 million will also go towards safe drinking water investments.

Internet

In the modern world, access to the internet is not only necessary, but crucial for Americans to be able to do their jobs, go to school, access health care, and stay connected with family and friends.

Rural communities across Florida often lack access to high-speed internet, specifically in counties that have “been adversely affected by extraordinary economic events or natural disasters.” Twenty-nine percent of households within these counties in Florida access the internet with no subscription or have no internet access.

Under Biden’s infrastructure law, Florida will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help ensure high-speed internet access across the state.

Experts also estimate that over three million households in Florida are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), although only 1.2 million households are enrolled so far. This program cuts internet bills by up to $30 per month, or $75 for households on tribal lands. It also provides a one-time $100 discount off a connected device.

In addition to the above measures, the Biden administration is working with internet providers to offer high-speed internet plans that are fully covered by the ACP. This means that most eligible households in Florida would be able to get high-speed internet for free.

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are quickly becoming a way of life for many Americans. While just 7% of U.S. adults say they currently own an electric or hybrid vehicle, according to the Pew Research Center, about 39% of Americans say that the next time they purchase a vehicle, they are at least somewhat likely to seriously consider electric.

The infrastructure law has so far allocated $71.5 million in 2022 and 2023 to Florida to build out a network of EV chargers across the state. Reducing gas emissions by transitioning to EVs is crucial to addressing the climate crisis, and that transition will create a crucial supply of new domestic manufacturing jobs, according to the White House.

Florida can expect to receive roughly $198 million over five years to support the expansion of electric vehicle charging.

Resilience and Legacy Pollution Cleanup

More broadly, one of the main aims of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is to address the climate crisis. Thousands of former industrial, chemical, and energy sites emit harmful pollutants into surrounding communities across the country and disproportionately impact communities of color.

The infrastructure law is set to reclaim abandoned mines, cap orphaned oil and gas wells, and clean up Superfund sites, which are areas that have been contaminated by hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. As of February, 52 sites in Florida were listed on the Superfund National Priority List, the seventh highest amount in the United States.

Last month, the EPA announced that approximately $1 billion in funding from the infrastructure law would be used to start cleaning up 22 Superfund sites, including the Southern Solvents site in Tampa.

To date, Florida has been allocated approximately $1.4 billion for improving “infrastructure resilience.” This investment will help the state work against pressing challenges like the impacts of climate change, extreme weather events, and more.

Author

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

CATEGORIES: INFRASTRUCTURE | POLITICS

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