Stabenow touts benefits of infrastructure bill
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and members of her staff highlighted funding available to communities in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan through last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act during a virtual session Wednesday.
Stabenow, D-Lansing, spoke briefly at the start of the meeting before departing for Senate discussion of voting-rights legislation.
“This has been talked about for years and years and years, but we were able to come together and get it done, and so I want to make sure that every single dollar comes to Michigan,” she said.
The funding included $7.9 billion over the next five years to improve roads, bridges and highways, most of which will come through federal-aid highway programs. That also includes funding for recreational vehicles, bike paths and electric vehicle charging, said Lot Kwarteng, legislative assistant for Stabenow.
One set of grants will include the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program, which will allow for rehabilitating and replacing bridges and culverts.
“Michigan is set to get $500 million over the next five years for truss bridge needs, but there’s also $12 billion that will come online over the next five years to help our communities deal with their bridge needs,” he said. “In tandem, that’s the single largest investment in our nation’s bridges since the construction of the interstate system.”
States, regional planning councils, local governments, public entities and tribal governments will be able to apply.
The infrastructure bill includes $65 billion for funding to upgrade internet in Michigan.
“I want to make sure every single inch — every single community, house, farm, business, school, hospital is connected — and this is the beginning of making that happen,” Stabenow said.
Applications will start in February for grants through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, in which each state will receive at least $100 million for high-speed internet expansion. Due by Feb. 22, the Reconnect Program will offer $2 billion through loans and/or grants to build high-speed internet in rural areas. Businesses, cooperatives, public entities and Native American tribes can apply in areas where at least 90% of households do not have internet service meetings speeds of 100/20 megabits per second.
Stabenow and her aides also spoke about funding for the Great Lakes, drinking water and water infrastructure such as lead line service replacement.
“I was pleased to get the largest single-year investment in the Great Lakes into this legislation,” she said. “And it’s going to help us tackle what’s happening around erosion, other challenges around the climate crisis, and other things that we know are threats to the Great Lakes.”
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative received $1 billion in funding through last year’s Infrastructure bill. It includes projects that address toxic substances, invasive species and laying the groundwork for future restoration, among other criteria.
Stabenow also talked about funding to address contamination from PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The toxic man-made chemicals are found at numerous sites throughout Michigan, including decommissioned military sites like the Sawyer Air Force Base, Stabenow said. Funds coming to Michigan this year will include $18 millon through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and $4 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
Mikayla Bodey, a Stabenow staffer with the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, answered a question about the funding opportunities and help in applying available to smaller townships. She suggested reaching out to USDA Rural Development for projects such as water projects or community-related facilities. A provision in the proposed Build Back Better legislation would include providing rural areas with assistance in grant writing, environmental reviews, and historic preservation reviews. Stabenow’s office also assist in federal grant-writing hurdles, she said.
Stabenow also celebrated Tuesday’s news of $479 million in funding for the completion of the Soo Locks. She said the funding, which includes construction of a new lock, will guard against failure of the locks and the effect that would have on the nation’s economy.