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Expert Q&A on Implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

On November 15, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law. The legislation provides hundreds of billions of dollars for new spending on infrastructure, which will support investments in transportation, water, energy, and broadband systems. While ambitious initiatives outlined in the legislation represent generational opportunities to modernize our nation’s infrastructure, leveraging this influx of federal dollars for the greatest long-term public benefit, by effectively implementing so many new and existing programs, will be a significant challenge. Federal agencies will have to be strategic to ensure investments are impactful at delivering on their stated goals and are distributed equitably and efficiently.

BPC asked the following experts, all of whom have significant experience in administering federal infrastructure programs, to share their advice on the opportunities and challenges inherent in implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act:

  • Susan Bodine – Former EPA Assistant Administrator
  • Jane Garvey – Former FAA Administrator; Former FHWA Acting Administrator and Deputy Administrator
  • Beth Osborne – Former DOT Acting Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy
  • Nicole Nason – Former FHWA Administrator and NHTSA Administrator
  • Jim Ray – Former DOT Senior Advisor
  • Rodney Slater – Former DOT Secretary and FHWA Administrator
  • Mariia Zimmerman – Former HUD Deputy Director for Sustainable Communities

See their responses below.

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The IIJA has left agencies with the enormous task of expanding existing programs and creating new programs with ambitious objectives. Given your experience administering infrastructure programs, what advice do you have for current agency officials to establish impactful, efficient programs? What lessons have you learned about the mechanics of successful infrastructure grant programs?

The White House appointed former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, along with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, to chair an Infrastructure Implementation Task Force charged with overseeing the effective implementation of the IIJA. How can this task force break down barriers to interagency collaboration and drive effective implementation of infrastructure investments across all levels of government?

Racial equity and environmental justice are stated priorities for the administration and members of Congress touting the bill. However, too often federal spending does not reach marginalized communities with the greatest economic and environmental needs. What steps can agencies take to ensure spending reaches communities equitably? What potential pitfalls that could undermine equity should officials watch out for when implementing new and existing programs?

One risk of new infrastructure spending is fiscal substitution—the potential for state and local governments to use new federal grant dollars to replace non-federal dollars and fund programs and projects that would have been implemented without federal help. How can agency officials limit fiscal substitution and leverage federal dollars for increased investment overall? 

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