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Passage of $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill expected to spur stronger construction activity

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Movers+Shapers

Passage of $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill expected to spur stronger construction activity

AEC firms see federal investment as historic


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | November 7, 2021
The bipartisan infrastructure bill is expected to boost construction spending and jobs.
The bipartisan federal infrastructure bill could usher in a new dawn for construction jobs and spending. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The AEC industry’s initial reactions to Congress finally passing a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package focused on the myriad opportunities that lie ahead for the country and their businesses.

“The importance of this bill cannot be overstated,” Sam Sleiman, Executive Vice President of National Transportation for the general contractor Suffolk, told ConstructionPros.com. “This will be the largest investment in American infrastructure in a generation.”

Murray Rowden, global head of infrastructure for the construction consulting firm Turner & Townsend, expects this bill will create platforms for public-private partnerships “that both amplify the funding in the bill [and] fortify infrastructure as a stable asset class.” Moody’s Investors Service has estimated that passage of this legislation could result in a 5 percent increase in U.S. construction spending next year, and another 5.5. percent increase in 2023. Those growth rates would be about two percentage points higher than the spending increases without the bill.

The legislation will deliver $550 billion in new federal investments in the country’s infrastructure over the next five years, $110 billion of which will go toward roads, bridges and other major infrastructure projects. Tens of billions more will now be poured into upgrading public transit, freight rail, broadband, airports, ports, and waterways. The bill will help pay for expanding America’s recharging network for electric vehicles. Fifty billion dollars are earmarked for making power and water systems more resilient. Environmental remediation of Superfund and brownfield sites gets $21 billion.

The building industry certainly welcomed the government’s financial commitment, even if the total Congress approved is about half of what President Joe Biden asked for. Michael Bellaman, President and CEO of the 21,000-member Associated Builders and Contractors, stated that his organization “stands ready to do the important work to bring infrastructure into the 21st Century.” Bellaman expressed wariness, though, about some of the bill’s “exclusionary” provisions that could restrict the eligibility of some workers to participate in these projects.

The National Association of Home Builders stated that the 2,700-page bill contains several provisions that NAHB believes will boost housing affordability, including those that reduce or eliminate energy and water code mandates and streamline permitting.

POTENTIAL GROWTH IN JOBS AND DIGITIZATION

 Passage of this bill “proves once again that the country can lead with infrastructure,” said Dennis D. Truax, PE, President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which represents more than 15,000 CEs worldwide. Truax also took a victory lap by framing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as this legislation is titled, as the “culmination” of his Society’s “tireless” advocacy to educate Congress about “the role infrastructure plays in supporting the economy and our quality of life.” He noted the bill includes investments that address nearly all of the 17 categories in ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which gave the country a C-minus grade.

Linda Bauer Darr, President and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies, a federation of 52 state and regional organizations representing more than 600,000 engineers, surveyors, and architects, said the Council’s analysis estimates that the bipartisan agreement would create more than 82,000 full- and part-time jobs in engineering and design services, pushing annual sector output to $416 billion by 2026 from $352 billion in 2021.

Autodesk’s CEO Andrew Anagnost called passage of this bill “a historic moment in the future of our infrastructure, our economy, and the health of our communities.” He saw it as evidence that the Biden Administration and Congress “are ready to get ahead of the infrastructure innovation curve” by creating a program for state departments of transportation to incorporate digital design, construction, and operations tools into their processes. “Overall, it will enable our customers and the industry at large to lead projects that are built faster, more affordably, and that are more innovative, resilient, and climate conscious.”

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