MANCHESTER, NH – The red-lined Amoskeag Bridge was a fitting backdrop for Tuesday’s announcement of a historic national spending bill passed last week by Congress.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act promises to fix New Hampshire’s failing bridges, advance commuter rail and speed up the modernization of a wastewater system that currently dumps millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Merrimack River, among many other far-reaching goals.
New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation, including Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and U.S. Representatives Chris Pappas and Anne Kuster, stood along the banks of the Merrimack River, along with Mayor Joyce Craig, to officially announce how the largest infrastructure spending package in U.S. history will make life better for all New Hampshire residents – from lots of jobs to bringing New Hampshire’s infrastructure into the 21st century, and beyond.
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, called the bill’s passage “a watershed moment” for the country, and detailed the back-and-forth among lawmakers in Washington, D.C., that went on over “the better part of the last two terms” to finally hammer out last week’s bipartisan agreement.
“This is real, we’re about to see shovels go in the ground and work getting done here in New Hampshire,” Pappas said. “The cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of this bill.”
High on the list of priorities is the expansion of commuter rail into New Hampshire, which was included in the latest version of the state’s 10-year transportation plan, and which has the support of communities on this side of the Massachusetts border including Nashua and Manchester.
The bill is the biggest investment in public transit ever made, Papps said, as well as the largest federal investment in rail in decades.
“The programmatic support in this bill will help to bring passenger rail to New Hampshire, which we’re all excited about,” Pappas said.
The state’s wastewater management has been a priority for Pappas, who has worked closely with his Congressional counterparts from Massachusetts to clean and protect the Merrimack River.
“Here in Manchester, we put a lot of focus on sewage overflow into this river right here where each year 500 million gallons of sewage are dumped into the Merrimack River along the rivershed between Manchester and Massachusetts. It’s important we continue to try to help cities like Manchester to make the upgrades necessary to modernize it,” Pappas said.
Mayor Craig echoed the positive vibes coming from Pappas, Kuster, Shaheen and Hassan.
“As you’ve heard this is a historic moment for Manchester for New Hampshire and for our entire country, from strengthening broadband access to critical investments in our roads, bridges and clean drinking water, the bipartisan infrastructure and jobs act will improve the quality of life for granite staters by making much-needed improvements in our local communities,” Craig said.
Improving the city’s infrastructure and especially city streets is a top priority for residents and a focus for Craig as she is about to enter her third term in office. Craig also noted money that will come to Manchester will mean “thousands of new good-paying jobs” and will mean millions of dollars in expanding commuter rail, both of which will have a positive impact on the day-to-day lives of Manchester residents,” Craig said.
Shaheen called the bill a “once in her lifetime” investment in the country’s infrastructure. She said the breakdown of how much each municipality will receive of the federal money coming to New Hampshire is still being sorted out. But she said the most important thing is to realize just how far this bill will go in growing the economy, enhancing our U.S. competitiveness, creating good jobs, and making New Hampshire’s economy more sustainable and resilient.
Although Gov. Chris Sununu was not in attendance, NH Transportation Commissioner Victoria Sheehan and NH Department of Environmental Services Assistant Commissioner Mark Sanborn spoke briefly about how the bill will advance programs already in the works under Sununu’s leadership.
Shaheen said she fought for bipartisan support for many of the bill’s provisions, and outlined the landmark nature of the infrastructure bill which:
- Makes the largest federal investment in public transit ever
- Makes the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak
- Makes the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system
- Makes the largest investment in clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in American history, delivering clean water to millions of families
- Ensures every American has access to reliable high-speed internet
- Helps the U.S. tackle the climate crisis by making the largest investment in clean energy transmission and EV infrastructure in history; electrifying thousands of school and transit buses across the country; and creating a new Grid Deployment Authority to build a resilient, clean, 21st-century electric grid
In her closing remarks, Rep. Kuster said she and her counterparts expect to be back in New Hampshire in a few weeks to announce the Build Back Better bill which, like the infrastructure bill, will mean sweeping quality of life improvements from the social policy side, including family caregiving, childcare, access to early education and senior care.
“Stay tuned,” Kuster said. “We have a lot more coming.”
New Hampshire is expected to receive $1.1 billion in federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs over five years as a result of the bill.
The White House says the package will also provide New Hampshire $125 million over five years “to improve public transportation options across the state” and $17 million to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations. It says New Hampshire the $100 million the state would receive for internet enhancement will connect “at least 42,800 people in New Hampshire who currently lack it.”
The bill will send to the state $418 million over five years to improve water infrastructure and, as a result, water quality, and the state will receive $345.6 million over five years for “infrastructure development” at airports.