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Biden Unveiling $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Today In Pittsburgh — Here's What's Inside

Andrew Harnik

When President Joe Biden unveils his new infrastructure plan in a Pittsburgh union training center today, he’ll be doing it in a region that embodies many of the needs he hopes to address — and not just because it’s a former industrial powerhouse whose roads need help.

Biden will introduce his American Jobs Plan in a Carpenters union training facility that overlooks the Parkway West, and he is likely to speak about the importance of union labor, of workforce training, and of nuts-and-bolts construction. But information released by the White House late Tuesday suggests the plan will also address regional needs that often get less attention — like the demand for more access to elder care and better pay for those who provide it, or the challenge of dealing with chronic environmental problems caused by old mines and wells.

In all, the plan is expected to cost $2 trillion over the course of a decade. And its overarching intent, an administration official told reporters in a background briefing Tuesday night, is to focus “on how can we make a historic capital investment in America to improve our competitiveness, create millions of jobs, rebuild our infrastructure and … finally address the climate crisis as a nation.” 

The proposal is sprawling — a fact sheet outlining its proposals runs to over two dozen pages — and its approach to infrastructure is about filling not just potholes but holes in the social fabric. It makes a point of targeting spending toward long neglected communities of color, and one of the largest outlays proposed — $400 billion — will focus on expanding home- and community-based care for the elderly and disabled. 

The plan is a chance “to demonstrate that the United States and democracies can deliver for the people that they serve,” the administration official said, speaking on background. “The world is watching [and] we can demonstrate to the American people that the type of historic and galvanizing public investment programs we have had in the past … can revitalize our national imagination and put millions of Americans to work.”

Some of the proposals are mainstays in any discussion of infrastructure. Biden is proposing some $115 billion to improve 20,000 miles of roads nationwide, for example, with another $85 billion earmarked for mass transit — money to spend on replacing transit vehicles as well as the track and roadways they use. An additional $25 billion could be spent on ports. 

But instead of focusing solely on the need to maintain the existing transportation network, the proposal is also forward-looking, directed toward what White House spokesperson Jen Psaki called “an infrastructure of the future” in a Tuesday press briefing.

For example, the plan envisions a $174 billion investment in electronic vehicles, with goals that include replacing diesel buses with electric transit, and establishing a network of 500,000 charging stations across the country within a decade. And it foresees a need for $50 billion in spending to contend with the severe weather events made more frequent by climate change — money that may harden roadways while also restoring natural environments that can cushion the blow from storms. Another $35 billion will be spent on research into clean energy and climate solutions.


Other proposals include:


·      $213 billion to build and rehabilitate 2 million homes, with a focus on turning them into affordable residences for low- and moderate-income households

·      $100 billion to connect every American household to a high-speed broadband network 

·      $111 billion to replace lead lines in water systems across the country, while improving other water and sewer system infrastructure

·      $100 billion to underwrite the cost of green energy systems, and to remediate the environmental harms done from previous energy extraction, like plugging old oil and gas wells.

·      $100 billion to upgrade or replace aging school buildings, with another $25 billion to upgrade childcare facilities


To pay for the improvements, the White House is proposing a corporate tax reform plan that would set the corporate tax rate at 28 percent — up from the current 21 percent — while seeking to exact a price for offshoring of profits and production. The official said the approach was “a matter of fairness” as well as a way to encourage more job growth by increasing the costs for moving factories outside the country. 

The plan pledges to take on “long-standing and persistent racial injustice” by targeting 40 percent of the benefits of its climate and green infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities. It earmarks some research and development money for historically Black colleges, for example.

In all, the briefing paper asserts that the plan is an effort to “unify and mobilize the country to meet the great challenges of our time: the climate crisis and the ambitions of an autocratic China.” It warns that American spending on research — most notably in semiconductors, batteries, and clean energy — is not keeping pace, and that its physical infrastructure is far from the envy of the world.

“We think these are investments that as a country we cannot afford not to make,” the administration official warned.

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Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.