The colossal infrastructure package awaiting President Biden’s signature contains billions of dollars in projects for Alaska that U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski drafted and negotiated in Congress.
Describing the legislation as long overdue, Biden said he will schedule a formal signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The House adopted the $1.2 trillion bill on Friday night, with Rep. Don Young among 13 Republicans ensuring its passage. The final vote was 228-206.
‘Decades behind in basic infrastructure’
Calling the landmark bill one of the most “consequential” pieces of legislation in her Senate career, Murkowski said the legislation addresses major gaps in Alaska’s core infrastructure. There are funds to build roads, fix bridges and provide drinking water and sanitation in communities with no plumbing.
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recognizes that Alaska is decades behind in having the basic infrastructure which many states in the Lower 48 take for granted,” Murkowski said after the House vote.
Murkowski thanked Young, the most senior member of the House, for using his status and influence to gather the Republican support needed for passage.
Young said Saturday that the legislation is necessary to “secure upward economic mobility” in Alaska. “I will be honest: when I take a look at some of our roads, bridges, and ports, I do not like what I see,” Young said.
He described the sweeping, bipartisan legislation as perhaps the nation’s “last best chance to modernize and strengthen infrastructure.”
Murkowski was among a key bipartisan group of 10 senators who spent several months helping to steward the legislation through the Senate. The bill passed in August with support from Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan.
The legislation invests $550 billion over five years in hard infrastructure, without raising new taxes.
The bill also will pay to improve the electric grid, streamline permitting, and further develop the minerals supply chain, which powers smart technologies.
Specific projects for the Interior
For Interior Alaska, the bill authorizes funds to rebuild the Shakwak Highway, which connects the interior to the panhandle. Part of the Alaska Highway, the Shakwak runs from Haines to Haines Junction in Canada.
There also are research dollars for the Alaska Hydrokinetic Energy Research Center (AHERC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The center studies marine energy and hydropower as alternative energy sources.
There are funds for earth mapping to identify, locate and understand the scope of metals underground in Alaska, including in the Yukon-Tanana uplands.
The National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program also will be re-authorized through 2031. The program maps mineral deposits as well as charts landslides, volcanoes, and earthquakes.
Overall, Alaska projects include but are not limited to:
- $3.5 billion over five years to construct, rebuild, and maintain roads and highways.
- $362 million in a mix of grants for public transit.
- $225 million to rebuild and upgrade bridges.
- $180 million for developing water and wastewater projects.
- $230 million to support new and improved wastewater and drinking water systems.
- $75 million for the Denali Commission, which funds rural economic development and infrastructure.
- $1 billion for ferry service to communities without traditional road systems, plus $73 million for the construction of ferry boats and terminal facilities in Alaska.