Upgrading North Carolina’s infrastructure from mountain top to shore

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North Carolina is a state blessed with boundless natural beauty, with mountain ranges to the west and beaches to the east. With this diverse landscape comes unique challenges to maintaining and improving our infrastructure. North Carolina currently has more than 3,000 miles of highway that are considered in “poor condition” and nearly 1,500 bridges that are considered “poor condition.”

As a North Carolina Senator, one of my top priorities has been to ensure our state has the resources to modernize our infrastructure system. Last year I worked on the historic bipartisan Senate infrastructure package that resulted in a major victory for the nation. I worked on a bipartisan basis to successfully negotiate and draft the bipartisan infrastructure bill because I recognized the importance of investing in and strengthening our infrastructure for future generations.

Contrary to some common misinformation, the Infrastructure Act focuses solely on investments in real infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water systems and our electricity grid. The $550 billion was paid for with no tax increases, and it will help generate billions in economic growth in tax-responsible ways for decades to come, including recycling unspent unemployment insurance and unspent COVID-19 recovery funding, rather than simply our nation stack up guilt.

The state of Tar Heel alone will receive $10 billion for future transportation and infrastructure projects as legislation provides much-needed funds to repair and improve our highways, roads, bridges and airports. It also represents a major investment to expand broadband access in rural communities.

I’ve worked hard to secure funding for North Carolina’s airports and ports. The millions of dollars included in the legislation will modernize and improve our state’s airports as more North Carolinians take to the skies and help modernize our state’s ports.

The bipartisan infrastructure law also takes a big step in addressing the challenges faced by North Carolina’s coastal communities, who are all too familiar with historic flooding events that have destroyed thousands of homes in recent years. After Hurricanes Matthew and Florence devastated our coastline, I worked with our state delegation to secure billions of dollars in disaster relief funds so communities can recover as quickly as possible.

I have also pushed for legislation that would fix the bureaucratic delays some of our communities, including Greenville, were facing that prevented them from starting mitigation projects immediately after a natural disaster. The Infrastructure Act addresses these challenges, and many of our coastal cities are now getting much-needed help through the Climate Ready Coasts initiative so they can invest more in climate resilience to be better prepared for future natural disasters.

Most Americans, especially those in underserved communities, would agree that broadband is real infrastructure. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the differences between communities in our state. Those with near-universal broadband access were better able to enable teleworking and distance learning, while those in more rural areas of the state with limited broadband access simply did not have that luxury.

To fill this gap, the Infrastructure Act provides $100 million for broadband services for the nearly 400,000 North Carolina residents who still do not have access to high-speed Internet. We’re already seeing those investments put to use, as earlier this year I had the honor of announcing broadband rollout in Lenoir County that will bring high-speed Internet to more than 15,000 homes. North Carolina will receive its fair share of additional broadband funding in addition to the $100 million based on underserved areas in our state.

Although we’ve made tremendous strides in improving infrastructure, we can’t take our foot off the pedal. Many challenges are still ahead. The 40-year high inflation hitting American families also poses a direct threat to some of the infrastructure projects funded in the bipartisan bill as building material prices soar. Unless the Biden administration and congressional Democrats halt their runaway spending, inflation will continue to weigh on American families and businesses and hurt the potential of thousands of infrastructure projects across the country.

For my part, I will continue to advocate for fiscal prudence and responsibility, in part to ensure we have a sustainable path to ensure future generations have the infrastructure and transportation needed to make America the most economically prosperous nation in the world to make world.

• Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Judiciary Committee. Prior to serving in the Senate, he was Speaker of the House of Representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly, where he played an instrumental role in the passage of job creation policies and North Carolina tax and regulatory reform.

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