As the new Administration’s American Jobs Plan makes the rounds on Capitol Hill, it is worth noting how the proposed changes will affect infrastructure in states like Arizona. At a $2 trillion price tag, the landmark bill aims to make sweeping renovations to the nation’s bridges and roads, at a time when the country is overdue for a number of key improvements in those areas.
Earlier this year, Arizona was given a C grade for infrastructure in a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). While this rating could be seen as a positive in the greater context of the country, which received a C-minus for infrastructure overall, these scores are nevertheless indicative that a much-needed facelift for state and national infrastructure is highly anticipated. This need is reflected by voters, as polling shows an overwhelming majority of the public are supportive. When given only minimal information regarding the American Jobs Plan, 68 percent of voters said they would support the proposal, and when given more information, support increased to 71 percent, a 47-point margin.
Many of the contents of the federal proposal should make serious inroads in terms of addressing specific areas of need within the state. Key infrastructure areas like deteriorating roads, inadequate public transportation, and poor water quality can lead to adverse effects on people’s financial, physical, and even mental well-being. The proposal will direct funding towards increasing or modernizing Arizona’s buses and will funnel billions into the state’s drinking water infrastructure. Additionally, the state will receive funding to fix its roads and highways, which could save Arizona residents hundreds of dollars a year on vehicle repair costs.
Arizona officials say much is in the works regarding roads and rails repairs, once the plan is passed. As Policy and Government Relations Director of the Maricopa County Association of Governments, Nathan Pryor is taking the initiative to rally support for several infrastructure proposals, a mix of repair and development projects involving the state’s freeways and rail system. “These are historic times so a lot of big-dollar proposals are coming out,” says Pryor, who sees Biden’s plan as a rare opportunity to make the most out of the rapidly-growing greater Phoenix area. While several of the smaller repair projects will be completed relatively quickly, such as updates to the I-17 and I-10 freeways, Pryor has his sights set on the “longer-term opportunity” of extending the I-11 highway from Phoenix to southern Nevada. Seeing the project through would increase the efficiency of interstate travel between Phoenix and Las Vegas. There are also proposals for revitalizing the Phoenix rail system, a move that would make public transportation a more viable option and reduce emission and congestion on roads.
Pryor is just one of many Arizona figures coming out in support of the plan. Arizona Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar emphasized the importance of being ready to utilize “innovative renewable and carbon free energy” as means for developing the state’s economy. “Right now, Arizona utilities are required to generate at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources” says Tovar, who calls the law “outdated” and says the state is in need of a new “ambitious, yet realistic” target. Andrew Sugrue is similarly hopeful about the plan, saying the people “have a historic opportunity to invest, to bring about a stronger recovery, [and] create a more equitable economy”. As assistant director of policy and advocacy at the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Sugrue sees the plan as a chance to add jobs and better the health and well-being of current residents and their children for the foreseeable future.
The American Jobs Plan will take aim at several other Arizona areas of need beyond roads and rails. Issues of focus include a $200 billion investment to increase availability of affordable housing, which should reduce some of the 410,000 Arizona renters that spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent due to housing scarcity. These low-income households spend an additional estimated 6-8 percent of their incomes on energy costs, a number that will be addressed through the significantly expanded Weatherization Assistance Program. Further changes include a $300 billion investment in manufacturing, which makes up 6 percent of the workforce in Arizona, and an additional investment into clean energy job creation within the state.