Infrastructure Bill: Get Smart, Get Started, Get Funded
by Matthew Sprague | January 14, 2022
With the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill in November, capital program managers are wondering how the new legislation will impact their projects in 2022. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) designates $1.2 trillion for long-term revitalization of the U.S.’s aging infrastructure.
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While some of the funds have been allocated on predetermined formulas and calculations, much is available to local agencies, cities, and states in the form of grants. As a capital program manager, how can you best position yourself to receive these funds?
1. Understand How Funding is Awarded
Here’s a high-level overview of how some of the $1.2 trillion has been allocated:
- $110 billion for roads and bridges
- $50 billion for bridge repair
- $50 billion for public transportation
- $65 billion for freight rail and passenger rail
- $65 billion for broadband upgrades
- $65 billion for water infrastructure
- $30 billion for environmental restoration projects
- $25 billion for airports
Now that the bill has passed, funding through the IIJA will begin to flow during the first quarter of 2022. “If you're an infrastructure owner, it’s important to know there are some funds already flowing from two previously established sources,” says Chris Bell, VP infrastructure and data analytics at Trimble.
One is the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which funded $1.9 trillion in emergency relief for COVID response, but it also set aside funds specifically for infrastructure in the areas of water, wastewater, and broadband. The second source already in use is the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, passed in 2021, which provides $476 billion primarily for roads and bridges. “Right now, those funds are underutilized and under obligated,” says Bell, “but we are seeing infrastructure owners, local counties, municipalities’ streets and roads divisions starting to release projects.”
Each of those previous bills took about two months to start to release funds, and the IIJA funds are expected to follow a similar timeline. The first step for owners is the requesting process—and they need to be prepared.
“If you're an infrastructure owner, it’s important to know there are some funds already flowing from two previously established sources.”
- Chris Bell, VP infrastructure and data analytics | Trimble
2. Don't Wait, Take Action Now
To plan ahead for upcoming projects in their region, public infrastructure owners can take a look at the White House’s state-specific fact sheets highlighting allocated funds. “This will be the non-grant related funding distribution that comes into each state,” says Matt Sprague, senior product marketing manager for Trimble PPM. “It gives owners a good idea of how much money can be expected in their state.”
When that funding starts to flow, the first projects to get off the ground will be the ones that are backlogged and shovel ready—so it’s important for owners to get their plans in order now. “The money will flow more quickly into the older programs because the processes are already in place,” says Sprague.
3. Prepare to Demonstrate Transparency
Because the IIJA underwent much debate in the House and Senate, Sprague expects it will come down with a heightened expectation of transparency and accountability for how the funding is used. “Lawmakers had to make concessions and take risks with their constituents to get this passed,” he says. “They’re going to expect to see metrics that show early indicators of the bill’s success—so having systems in place to find efficiencies, create accountability, and make all of this transparent to the stakeholders, is important for owners to realize now.”
“With the infusion of IIJA funds, you could literally double or triple your ongoing capital improvement program. The demand for labor will certainly exceed capacity. The shortage has been around for many years.”
- Chris Bell, VP infrastructure and data analytics | Trimble
4. Tackle the Labor Shortage with Technology
America is facing a national labor shortage, and the construction industry is experiencing that lack of skilled labor. Because of that, the prospect of increasing activity may be overwhelming to owners, who are unsure how they will execute on the many new projects. “With the infusion of IIJA funds, you could literally double or triple your ongoing capital improvement program,” says Bell. “The demand for labor will certainly exceed capacity. The shortage has been around for many years.” Construction organizations have stepped up their recruiting efforts to bring labor into the market, but for now, the problem remains.
One way owners can address it is with technology systems such as advanced digital construction management systems which can help you do more with the same amount of resources. Funding for purchase of such digital tools is actually designated in the IIJA. “The idea is, how efficient can we become?” says Sprague. “Can we reduce the amount of time it takes to execute a project so we can do more projects?”
To achieve the ultimate in efficiencies, owners need to focus on establishing interoperability between digital systems, breaking down silos and allowing data to be utilized to solve problems and create insights. “Owners need to look at their existing digital technologies and ones they could add,” says Bell, “to find that productivity boost in their organization so that they actually can accomplish more with the same resources.”
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Key Topics Covered: infrastructure