Last night, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will help revitalize America’s aging infrastructure and deliver at least $27 billion in direct funding for New York infrastructure projects. Several of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s provisions were included in the package, including measures to encourage the use of local workers in infrastructure projects, increased limo safety standards, and funding for infrastructure projects that will help repair bridges, airports, and roads, connect local workers to good-paying jobs, and improve our nation’s water and sewage systems.
“Congress has delivered one of the boldest infrastructure packages in our nation’s history and I look forward to President Biden signing it into law. This package will create jobs, boost our economy, deliver funding to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and help rebuild underserved communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Now, we must continue to focus on passing a Build Back Better package that invests in people with policies like paid leave, affordable child care, universal pre-K, and more. I will continue to be relentless about getting this over the finish line.”
Below is a description of Gillibrand’s provisions included in the infrastructure bill:
Build Local, Hire Local: Following two years of tireless advocacy, Senator Gillibrand, along with Senate Majority Leader Schumer, secured $1B to help reconnect communities. This bill was inspired by the legacy of I-81 in Syracuse, whose construction segregated marginalized communities and limited their economic opportunities. Its inclusion in the bipartisan infrastructure package comes on the heels of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s visit to the I-81 viaduct at the invitation of Senators Gillibrand and Schumer. This provision would make bold reforms to federal infrastructure investments and allow communities to right the wrongs of the past.
Resilient Highways Act: Much of America’s infrastructure is at risk of flooding, and Senator Gillibrand’s Resilient Highways Act would shore up the nation’s infrastructure and economy by raising and relocating roads out of flood risk or slide zones, constructing new protective features like drainage structures and scour protection, and using natural infrastructure to mitigate flood risk. This provision, secured in the infrastructure bill, would do the following:
- Allow states to use up to 15% of funds apportioned under the National Highway Performance Program for projects within the National Highway System that mitigate the risk of recurring damage from extreme weather, flooding, and other natural disasters. This includes raising and relocating roadways out of flood or slide-prone areas, constructing new protective features like drainage structures and scour protection, and the use of natural infrastructure to mitigate flood risk.
- Incentivize states to include resiliency protective features on federally funded transportation projects and infrastructure by authorizing the Federal cost-share for those features to be 100%.
- Makes changes to the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, to authorize the use of funds from the Emergency Relief Program to be used to pay for new protective features on highways and bridges when repairing and rebuilding infrastructure after a natural disaster. This will help ensure that states are not just rebuilding back what was lost, but making critical improvements to protect the infrastructure against future damage from floods, wildfires and other disasters.
New York State has experienced significant infrastructure damage in recent years due to extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee. This legislation would help states like New York better prepare their highway infrastructure for future risks by incorporating design features that protect against damage from flooding, storm surge, sea-level rise, and other climate impacts. The legislation would deliver resources to allow New York State to complete projects that improve infrastructure resiliency such as:
- Sauquoit Creek Flood Mitigation in the Mohawk Valley: The project would replace both the Route 69 and Main Street bridges over Sauquoit Creek in the Mohawk Valley, in the Town of Whitestown and Village of Whitesboro. These structures are prone to flooding and they have been contributing factors in five devastating extreme weather flooding events within from 2011-2019. The flooding has caused repeated damage to hundreds of nearby residential and commercial structures.
- Annsville Circle Elevation at Routes 6 and 9 in Westchester County: The project would improve the resiliency of the Annsville Circle in the Mid-Hudson Region by replacing culvert and elevating the Annsville Circle to bring the area above the 100 year flood elevation. This is a lifeline corridor which provides access to the New York Army National Guard Military Installation at Camp Smith and is a key trans-Hudson River crossing (the Bear Mountain Bridge).
- Acre Creek and Loughlin Road Bridge Replacements in Broome County: The project would repair the Interstate 81 and Route 17 bridges over Acre Creek and Loughlin Road in the Southern Tier. Both bridges are on New York State’s high-risk flood watch, which requires continuous observation when water levels rise. There are no detours capable of accommodating the high-volume interstate traffic on the bridges and the 6-mile long detour through the City of Binghamton would cause extreme traffic backups and delays. Acre Creek is a steep and very active stream, which contributes to significant scour and erosion.
- Roadway Elevation in East Marion: The project would raise the road by 3 feet and replace NY 25 over Dam Pond inlet bridge to elevate the low-lying area and meet higher elevations at the project limits. NY Route 25 in the hamlet of East Marion is the only land-based access to the North Fork communities of Orient and Orient Point, several parks, and the ferries to Connecticut and Plum Island research facility east of the location. Loss of this roadway would restrict access to medical care and other basic necessities for over 600 housing units, affect interstate commerce, and isolate federal and state facilities in Orient and Plum Island. This area is approximately 3-4 feet above the apparent high tide elevation.
- Route 27A (Montauk Highway) bridge replacement over Amityville Creek.
STOP Act: Senator Gillibrand first introduced the STOP Act in 2017 and has been a staunch advocate for its inclusion in this year’s infrastructure package. This provision would authorize the Secretary of Transportation to establish a new competitive grant program at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) for the installation of public safety bollards and traffic barriers that will help prevent acts of terror and mitigate the risk of attacks on pedestrian and bicyclist pathways, like the West Side Highway bike path. It would authorize $5 million annually over 10 fiscal years with a federal cost-share of up to 100 percent. Cities and other units of local government would be eligible to apply for this funding directly, providing those municipalities with access to funding directly from USDOT to enhance public safety.
Stop Underrides Act: Senator Gillibrand has been at the forefront of the fight to prevent underride accidents from occurring, which have claimed thousands of lives across the country. These tragic accidents happen when a car slides underneath the body of a truck, hitting the windshield and rendering the car’s safety features useless, often resulting in severe head and neck injuries and even decapitation. Gillibrand successfully secured certain provisions from her Stop Underrides Act, which will require a rule on strengthened rear underride guards to be made within a year of enactment and require a study on the impact of side underride guards.
$10 Billion in Funding for PFAS: Gillibrand successfully pushed to include funding to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, including funding for a Gillibrand provision that was included in the Senate-passed Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA) earlier this year. The final infrastructure package includes additional funding for the EPA’s State Revolving Funds (SRF). Specifically, it includes $4 billion for the Drinking Water SRF for emerging contaminants with a focus on PFAS, and $1 billion for the Clean Water SRF for emerging contaminants. The amendment allocates $5 billion through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help disadvantaged communities, states, and private well owners test for PFAS in their response actions to addressing PFAS. This program was modified in April when the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan DWWIA, which included an amendment cosponsored by Senator Gillibrand that modifies the EPA’s Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities program to allow states to assist more households, including those who rely on private wells, impacted by unregulated contaminants like PFAS and heavy metals and carcinogens, such as lead, arsenic and radon. The amendment also expands eligibility of the program and provides states more flexibility to take on necessary and appropriate activities or projects that can help restore clean drinking water in communities facing contamination. The bill also authorized funds to replace lead service lines, the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds, a pilot program at the EPA for low-income water assistance, and funding for rural and disadvantaged communities, among other measures. Before this, states could only use funds on behalf of an underserved community, which is defined as a political subdivision of the state that has an inadequate system for obtaining drinking water.
Federal Limo Safety Standards: Almost three years since the tragic Schoharie limo accident claimed 20 lives in Upstate New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced that several of their federal limo safety standard provisions will be included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Their provisions would increase federal limo safety standards and close deadly loopholes to get dangerous limos off roads. Specifically, the provisions will ensure limo safety by instituting the following measures:
- Establish a program to provide funding for states to impound unsafe vehicles;
- Mandate that the Department of Transportation (DOT) establish a mandatory annual inspection regime;
- Conduct formal research and rulemaking on limo side-impact protection, roof crush assistance, and airbag systems;
- Conduct formal research and rulemaking on how to evacuate limo passengers more easily and safely in emergency situations;
- Mandate limo operators conspicuously share their vehicle inspection history with prospective customers;
- Create a formal definition of a limousine in federal statute, making it easier to create safety standards for this type of vehicle.