BOSTON — Cities and communities are being urged by the state’s construction industry to take advantage of a flurry of federal grants through the new Labor and Infrastructure Act to repair aging roads and improve water and sanitation systems.
Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Unions, said the tranche of available federal funds is a “unique opportunity to improve our nation’s roads, bridges and other aging infrastructure.” He urges local governments to take advantage of the competitive grants.
“These historic investments will improve the quality of life in every community and create life-changing careers for thousands of workers and their families,” Callahan said.
The grant money will be offered through the $1 trillion federal Infrastructure and Employment Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in November.
According to the Biden administration, Massachusetts will receive more than $9.5 billion from the spending bill over the next five years, including at least $4.2 billion for road improvements and $1.1 billion for bridge repairs .
But the new federal law also provides about $2.5 billion in competitive grants for local governments to repair potholes and crumbling bridges, upgrade water and sewage systems, and meet other infrastructure needs.
Gov. Charlie Baker is also chasing federal infrastructure funds offered under the new law. He has filed a $9.7 billion draft bond that calls for using state loans to receive billions of dollars in competitive federal grants.
If approved by the Legislature, the plan would generate $5.4 billion in highway funds for road and bridge upgrades, $2.2 billion for the MBTA, and $1.4 billion over the next five years provide for improvements to water and sanitation systems.
Other funds will be used to repair combined sewer drains and culverts, airports, and encourage electric vehicle adoption.
Another $110 billion will be made available to Massachusetts and other states for bridge repairs through a new competitive federal grant program, Baker said.
The state is also diverting money from a $4 billion plan to spend funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and excess proceeds on water, sewage and other environmental infrastructure.
Data provided by the Biden administration shows that only about 25% of Massachusetts’ 5,229 bridges are in good condition. About 9% are considered to be structurally deficient.
In addition to structurally flawed bridges, many of the state’s roads are badly deteriorated, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
The Biden administration’s Infrastructure Report Card gave the state a grade of C-, saying at least 1,194 miles of highway are in poor condition.
John Pourbaix, executive director of Construction Industries of Massachusetts, has urged state leaders to implement an “aggressive” bridge repair program and immediately begin directing federal funds to repair structurally flawed bridges.
“Every community across the Commonwealth has bridges that need repairing and/or reconstructing,” Pourbaix wrote in a recent letter to officials ensuring the safety of the public. Our bridges must be a priority.”
Christian M. Wade reports on the Massachusetts Statehouse for the North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]