In a report released earlier this year by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) on the nation’s infrastructure, Utah was given a C-plus grade. However, recent polling indicates an overwhelming level of public support for the American Jobs Plan, which would improve infrastructure across the U.S. When offered minimal information on the plan, 68 percent of voters said they would support it, and when given additional information regarding the aspects related to climate and clean energy, support jumped to 71 percent. The clean energy details would be expected to greatly benefit the state, with as many as 45,000 Utahns already working in the clean energy industry.
“It’s important to know that it puts Utah and the United States more broadly back in the driver’s seat, by reestablishing clean energy, and job creation and climate action,” says Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City.
The administration’s proposed American Jobs Plan provides an opportunity to consider how potential policy changes will impact Utah and the daily lives of its residents. While a state-by-state breakdown of how federal funding will be allocated has yet to be solidified, the $2 trillion price tag suggests that changes will be significant in every state.
The American Jobs Plan is expected to make noticeable improvements to Utah’s public transportation system, roads and bridges, and drinking water infrastructure, among a host of other much-needed areas. A fact sheet released by the White House states that Utah has over 2,000 miles of highway and 61 bridges that are in poor condition, which has led to a 7.2 percent increase in commute times for the residents of the state. This also impacts drivers’ wallets, resulting in over $700 in annual car repair costs. Public transportation isn’t a much better alternative, with Utahns who ride buses and rails spending over twice as much time commuting when compared to drivers. Even the state’s drinking water infrastructure is in need of assistance, with the report estimating that an additional $4.4 billion will be required over the next two decades.
While it is unclear exactly how much each state will receive in federal funding once the bill is passed, the proposed funding appears sizable enough that Utah will be allocated a number sufficient for making serious headway in addressing these needs and more. As much as $115 billion is proposed nationwide for repairing bridges and roads, so it can be assumed funds will be administered to the state. Similarly, there is $85 billion planned for revitalizing the nation’s public transportation infrastructure, which should help make a dent in commuter times for Utah’s residents by updating the 17 percent of state trains and buses that are past their lifespans. Another $111 billion is being directed for drinking water infrastructure, some of which will help the state maintain acceptable standards for years to come.
If the bill becomes law, the funding will come to Utah just as the state has begun to take on its own initiatives for improving infrastructure and reducing emissions. In September of last year, the state opened a new $4 billion international airport, mostly paid for with airline passenger fees rather than taxpayer dollars. Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall applauded the project as having one of the most energy-efficient designs of any airport worldwide. Additionally, the state legislature approved millions in funding for improving the Frontrunner rail system, which should drastically reduce commute times for countless Utahns in the greater Salt Lake area. In a move that should further reduce emissions, Utah has also joined more than a dozen other states in the Drive Electric USA coalition, which aims to “remove adoption barriers and accelerate plug-in electric vehicle use” nationwide.