Maryland is slated to receive as much as $6 billion from the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package approved by the U.S. House Friday night, money intended to improve roads, bridges, transit systems, broadband and bolster Chesapeake Bay restoration.
On its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, the legislation contains a number of provisions of specific importance to Maryland.
Those include five years of funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay program, and language allowing the Red Line — a planned Baltimore light rail system rejected by Gov. Larry Hogan six years ago — to be revisited.
The spending package reauthorizes large, national transportation programs and contains about $550 million in new spending. It passed the House 228-206 late Friday, drawing praise from Maryland lawmakers who touted the bill as a boon for the state and the nation.
“To grow our economy and generate more good paying jobs, we’ve got to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, invest in transit systems across the country, modernize our infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and tackle climate change,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill is a serious down payment on those priorities.”
House Democrats broke a deadlock between moderates and progressives Friday and passed the bill, which garnered the support of some Republicans. Seven of eight representatives from Maryland in the House voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, voted against the bill.
“We need infrastructure - but we also need to pay for it. Yesterday’s infrastructure bill added hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal debt,” Harris said in a tweet. “We have to stop spending our children and grandchildren’s money.”
Maryland Policy & Politics
U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat whose district encompasses parts of the Baltimore area, said he voted for the legislation “because of the benefits it will bring to Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County, including making funds available to address the ‘highway to nowhere’ and expanding opportunities for minority-owned businesses.”
In a statement Saturday, Hogan applauded the bipartisan effort and highlighted the benefits for Maryland.
“This bipartisan bill will put America’s infrastructure on the right track to grow jobs and make our economy competitive for the twenty-first century without raising taxes or adding to the debt,” the Republican governor said said.
Van Hollen and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, backed the bill in the Senate. During a discussion a discussion on coastal climate resilience at the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland, Cardin called Friday a “great day,” emphasizing the infrastructure bill included “major provisions in to deal with climate resiliency.”
Maryland’s infrastructure — including roads, bridges, water systems and the bay — received a “C” in 2020 from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The membership group gave the nation as a whole a “C-minus.”
Here are some of the Maryland-specific details about the bill:
- The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay restoration effort would receive $238 million in new funding over five years, roughly $47.6 million more each year, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “More money for the Chesapeake Bay Program is welcome news at a pivotal time for the future of the Bay,” Denise Stranko, federal executive director for the bay foundation, said in statement.
- The state would receive an estimated $4.1 billion in federal highway aid, according to White House and congressional estimates. The estimates are based on a need-based formula.
- The bill contains language, secured by Van Hollen and Cardin, allowing the Red Line to be revisited as part of billions of dollars in capital investment grants. The Red Line isn’t mentioned by name in the 2,702-page bill. Rather, the senators’ language specifies that such previously vetted projects be placed at the front of the line for funding consideration, assuming state and local leaders endorse them.
- The bill includes a program to reconnect communities split by transportation projects. Van Hollen and Cardin said this could help redress damage done by West Baltimore’s so-called Highway to Nowhere, a partially-built project halted in the early 1970s amid opposition from threatened neighborhoods along the proposed route and environmentalists. The program in the legislation will fund “planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure through $1 billion of dedicated funding,” Van Hollen said in August.
- According to White House and congressional estimates, Maryland would receive $409.5 million for bridge replacement and repairs. The state has 273 bridges in poor condition, according to a recent federal assessment.
- Maryland would qualify for $62.8 million to expand electric vehicle charging over the next five years, the White House and lawmakers said.
- The bill contains $17 billion for ports, but it is unclear how much the Port of Baltimore would receive.
- Maryland will receive a minimum of $100 million to improve broadband coverage across the state, according to White House and congressional estimates. Cardin said in August more than a million Marylanders will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, designed to help low-income families afford online access.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Aug. 11, 2021, after the U.S. Senate passed the infrastructure bill. It was updated on Nov. 6, 2021, after it was passed by the House of Representatives and sent to President Joe Biden for approval.
[ [ICYMI] Senate passes $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan ]