KANSAS CITY, Mo. – President Joe Biden visited here to extol the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill he enacted the law last month, which is expected to bring in billions of dollars in spending on roads and bridges, clean water, public transportation, high-speed internet and states.
The president said the investments amounted to a “blue collar blue collar blueprint” for rebuilding the country, providing more well-paying jobs and economic opportunities, 95% of which do not require a college degree.
For most of the 20th century, the United States has become a world leader because of “our willingness to invest in ourselves,” he said, citing the space race and the federal highway system. . Now, he said, China and the rest of the world are catching up and moving forward.
Biden’s speech, delivered to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, was a thread of frustration with the state of the country’s infrastructure and the challenges faced by those struggling to afford prescription drugs or access to the Internet, which implies that the country should do much better.
“We never break up. We never stop. We Americans are always rebuilding and we will rebuild this country, ”Biden said.
Biden said the law was doing something historic in rebuilding the country, fulfilling a promise he made during the election campaign.
“When I announced my election, I said I was running for three reasons,” Biden said. “One, to restore the soul of this country, a sense of decency and honor. Second, rebuilding the backbone of this country, the working class and hard working middle class – this is the backbone of this country. And third, to unite the country, which turns out to be one of the hardest things, but we’re going to get there.
The remote city of half a million people has struggled to meet infrastructure needs across its 300 square miles. For years, residents’ water bills have risen by double digits every year to fund a federally mandated upgrade to keep the city’s sewage from overflowing. The city renegotiated that mandate with the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year.
Kansas City’s iconic Buck O’Neil Bridge is long in need of replacement and had to be rehabilitated in 2018 pending funding for its replacement. The state-owned bridge is under reconstruction at a cost of 250 million dollars, half of which the city contributed through a sales tax increase.
Missouri’s highways are notoriously problematic with more than $ 4.5 billion in unfunded needs. Missouri General Assembly This Spring increase in gasoline tax for the first time in almost 30 years.
By law, Kansas should get $ 2.6 billion in road funds and $ 225 million for bridges over five years. Missouri should receive $ 6.5 billion and $ 484 million for these investments.
Both states would get hundreds of millions of dollars to extend broadband service to disconnected rural areas and low-income families who cannot afford the Internet.
Biden said no parent in 21st century America should have to sit in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant to use the internet, as many did during the pandemic.
“It’s the United States of America, for god’s sake,” Biden said.
Biden said the bill also marked the biggest investment in passenger railways in the United States in 50 years, joking about his own affinity for taking the train from Washington to Delaware.
United States Representative Sharice Davids, a Democrat who represents the Kansas side of the Kansas City area, said she was excited about the billions of dollars that would be pumped into the region through infrastructure investments. She said residents can feel the economic impact of decades of underinvestment in infrastructure.
“From bridges to broadband, we continue to create opportunity, because that’s what it is,” Davids said.
The federal infrastructure bill includes $ 89 billion for local transit projects over the next five years, of which $ 5.6 billion is earmarked for low-emission or zero-emission vehicles.
In 2020, Kansas City, Missouri, became the first major U.S. city to drop transit fares. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority operates 78 bus lines across the states, serving 14 million passengers per year. The fleet includes four battery-powered buses, and only zero-emission buses will be added.
Biden also touted elements of the bill to help the environment and protect communities from the effects of climate change. He said roads and bridges would be rebuilt to be more resilient to climate change. He praised Kansas City for moving to zero emission buses.
Biden said he grew up like many Americans in a middle-class household, but would hear his parents talk about struggles, as if his father was losing his health insurance.
“My dad said everyone just deserved a bit of a break,” Biden said.
Biden also took the opportunity to tout his Build Back Better plan, which has yet to be approved by the US Senate. He said the bill would invest in universal preschool education to help America catch up on early childhood education. He noted that the country ranks 34th.
During the pandemic, women were forced out of their workplaces in large numbers as school closures and quarantines upended their normal child care plans.
He spoke of a young woman who told him that she was forced to ration her insulin because she could not afford it and almost died from it. He said the bill would ensure that insulin does not cost more than $ 35 per month.
“Think about it,” Biden said. “The difference between almost dying and thriving is the cost of a drug that costs $ 10 to manufacture. … This can now cost consumers $ 1,000 per month. “
This story first appeared in the Missouri Independent, which is part of the States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.