Mich. senators tout bipartisan infrastructure bill for big boosts to Great Lakes, roads, broadband

By: - August 9, 2021 4:53 pm

Susan J. Demas

As the Senate gears up to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, Michigan’s senators say it would be a big shot in the arm for Great Lakes restoration efforts, broadband access, roads, bridges, highways and electric vehicle expansion. 

The legislation, which the Senate is expected to vote on this week, also comes as the United States currently ranks 13th in the world in infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers also gave the state of Michigan a “D+” rating overall in its last infrastructure report card in 2018. 

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) held a press call Monday to lift up the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters at the NAACP dinner | Andrew Roth

“It’s exciting because we’re finally addressing infrastructure, basic infrastructure — roads and bridges in this country that have been neglected for far too long,” Peters said. “You have to be big, you have to be bold and we cannot accept being 13th in the world in terms of infrastructure.”

Stabenow also highlighted that the bipartisan bill will address the needs of people across the state of Michigan on various fronts, whether it be expanding broadband access or cleaning up the Great Lakes. 

“The bottom line is that we want to get things done for people,” Stabenow said. “People want us to get things done and so that’s what we’re talking about: Doing what we can, in a bipartisan way, and completing what people need.” 

Roughly $1 billion has been designated for the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to clean up the lakes over a five-year period. It’s the largest amount designated for the program, according to Stabenow. 

Another $451 million will go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for contracts and projects aiming to restore the Great Lakes, marine or coastal ecosystem habitats. 

Over a five-year period, $110 million also will be disbursed to Michigan to support the expansion of electric vehicle charging networks. Michigan can also apply for $2.5 billion in grant funding that has been allocated to add electric vehicle charging stations in rural areas, as well as low- and median-income areas. 

In total, the bill includes $7.5 billion for installing electric vehicle charging stations and other alternative fuels, part of President Joe Biden’s pledge to build 500,000 charging stations across the country. 

Stabenow and Peters have pushed legislation strengthening “Buy American” rules, which will be included in the infrastructure deal. The provision aims to ensure that the federal government prioritizes American manufacturers in contracts. 

Michigan will see a 31% increase in federal funding to improve Michigan’s infrastructure and transit, according to Stabenow, with $7.3 billion for highways, $1 billion for public transportation and $563 million will go to replacing and repairing bridges.

The bill will also allocate at least $100 million to ensure broadband access for at least 398,000 Michiganders who are currently without it. 

The bipartisan legislation will also allocate $10 billion for PFAS cleanup. Half of the funds would go to small and disadvantaged communities to address PFAS in their drinking water while $4 billion would help remove PFAS from drinking water supplies. The last $1 billion would go to wastewater utilities to address PFAS in water waste discharges. 

Peters stressed the bill’s popularity with Americans. In an NBC News poll in April, 59% said it was a good idea when asked about Biden’s plan. 

“We know in the state of Michigan our infrastructure has declined over many years and we need to provide additional resources for that,” he said. “… That’s going to make a significant difference in the lives of Michiganders day in and day out. It’s also about creating a lot of good-paying jobs.”

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.