Alaska would receive $3.5 billion to build, upgrade and maintain highways, $225 million to make structural bridge repairs and $362 million in transit grants under a massive infrastructure bill before Congress.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski helped negotiate the $1.2 trillion bill, which improves Alaska’s airports, invests in the marine ferry system, funds broadband internet connections, and provides for clean drinking water and wastewater systems in remote Alaska.
The Senate adopted the legislation on a vote of 69-30, with Alaska’s two senators supporting it.
Murkowski described the legislation as a historic investment in Alaska and the nation. “We prioritize legacy infrastructure projects that will improve transportation, allow us to remain connected, and create healthier communities,” she said.
Murkowski noted that the legislation “will create new jobs and benefits that will pay forward for decades to come.”
The bill moves to the House for consideration. U.S. Rep. Don Young said Wednesday he “will be working hard to ensure that Alaskans are front and center in this process.”
Calling Alaska “a resource rich but infrastructure poor state,” U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said that the bill’s adoption was necessary for Alaska to “unlock its full potential.”
Sullivan faulted the legislation as “flawed in many ways,” but said it largely leaves spending decisions to the states, which was important for his support.
“A lot of the infrastructure money in this bill will go directly to the states — which know how best to use funds for their citizens,” he said.
The bill also would improve the federal permitting process, making it more efficient and easing delays. “This bill contains necessary provisions to streamline key elements of our broken federal permitting process — a process that greatly stifles our ability to build out vital infrastructure,” Sullivan said.
He noted that federal investment in infrastructure is important for the U.S. to compete against China. “America cannot have crumbling roads, bridges and ports if we are going to continue to lead the world economy,” Sullivan said.
With the legislation now under House consideration, Young said: “I am grateful to the bipartisan Senate negotiators, including Sen. Murkowski, for being willing to put partisanship aside and draft an infrastructure bill for the good of our nation.
“I will give this bill a fair hearing and look forward to working on it in the House,” Young said. “As former chairman and most senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have a very large platform to advocate for Alaska’s unique needs.”