RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina will receive billions of dollars in funding for roads, bridges, high-speed internet access and other projects after President Joe Biden signs the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law.
Officials in Wake County said Monday the additional federal funding also could accelerate the timeline of establishing a commuter rail line from Clayton to Durham, which is currently being studied.
“Hey, it really is infrastructure week,” said Rep. David Price (D-NC 4th). “That’s no longer a punchline. It’s no longer a platitude. It really is infrastructure week.”
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill after months of negotiations. The state’s eight Republican members voted against it. When it passed the Senate earlier this year both Sen. Thom Tillis (R) and Sen. Richard Burr (R) voted for it.
“The only reason why this sham of a bill was rushed to the floor was because Democratic leadership in the House needed it to pave the way for President Biden’s Build Back Bankrupt agenda,” said Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC 3rd) in a statement.
He said the “vote was a purely political, desperate move by left-wing politicians hurting from Tuesday’s election, and was not at all in the interest of the American people.”
According to the White House, these are some of the ways the bill impact North Carolina over five years:
-$7.2 billion for highway projects
-$457 million for bridge replacement and repairs
-$109 million for electric vehicle charging stations
-$910 million for public transportation
-at least $100 million for broadband access
-$1.1 billion for clean drinking water improvements
“This bill is a game-changer,” said Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC 2nd). “This bill is going to fund the kind of infrastructure that we need to move into the 21st century.”
North Carolina Transportation Sec. Eric Boyette said his agency is seeing the cost of doing these kinds of projects rise quickly. They’ve been affected by rising real estate costs, fuel costs and the cost of construction materials.
“We’re seeing dramatic price increases on things from lumber to steel, you name it,” he said. “This federal investment will help offset some of those costs increases and support our commitment to help build a resilient infrastructure.”
The labor shortage that’s impacted a variety of industries also could affect how quickly projects can be done.
As the money makes its way to North Carolina, the state will work with regional groups on allocating it to specific projects, some of which will need to undergo engineering work before construction begins. “That gives the economy time to deal with supply chain issues, to deal with labor issues,” said Rep. Ross.
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson said regional partners are in the process now of conducting a study on the commuter rail line, which could be done in early 2022. At that point, local leaders would have to decide whether to continue with the project and go forward with applying for federal funding.
“It’s simply a transit system that takes people where they want to go, when they want to go there,” said Hutchinson.
A previous proposal, the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project, was scrapped in 2019 when Duke University declined to move forward with it.