Public interest groups call for investment in “shovel-worthy” infrastructure projects as a top opportunity for building a better country
Environment America Research & Policy Center
WASHINGTON — On Jan. 20, 2021, the United States will have a new president, helping to turn the page on a brutal year of disease and disruption. While stark political divisions will undoubtedly remain, a new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center, and Frontier Group lays out a vision to bridge political divides through infrastructure investment, seizing a critical opportunity to emerge as a stronger nation after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“Infrastructure touches virtually every aspect of American life, and is at the heart of our greatest challenges, many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Environment Campaigns director and report co-author, said. “From ensuring safe drinking water to tackling global warming emissions, renewing our nation’s infrastructure policy is a wise use of taxpayer money, and an unprecedented opportunity to build a better world coming out of COVID.”
The report emphasizes that the federal government can play a critical role in unlocking new investment in infrastructure – especially at a time when local and state governments are in dire financial straits. But it’s not enough to launch projects that are “shovel ready.” The infrastructure we build must also be “shovel worthy.”
“We can’t build a strong and healthy America for our grandchildren using yesterday’s approach to infrastructure,” Gideon Weissman, Frontier Group policy analyst and report co-author, said. “Simply spending more money won’t get us the infrastructure we need for the rest of the 21st century; we need new programs and new priorities.”
The report lays out a blueprint for federal infrastructure investment in five key areas essential to protecting public health and addressing climate change: energy, water, natural infrastructure, solid waste and transportation. Some of the recommendations include:
- Invest in renewable energy infrastructure by expanding tax credits for wind, solar and energy storage projects.
- Expand and electrify public transportation beginning by immediately providing at least $32 billion in emergency operating support for transit in the wake of COVID-19 related budget shortfalls.
- Invest $11.5 billion per year for clean water to stop sewage overflows and to get the lead out of drinking water.
“Clean, safe water is the hallmark of an advanced society,” John Rumpler, Clean Water Program director for Environment America Research & Policy Center and report co-author, said. “The public is overwhelmingly supportive of increasing water infrastructure funding. We have an incredible opportunity to come together as a nation and ensure that our rivers, lakes and coasts are safe for swimming and our tap water is safe to drink.”