Correction: This story and its summary originally identified an incorrect total for the cost of the plan. The story has been corrected.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan passed by Congress and approved by President Joe Biden this week didn’t give everyone what they wanted, meaning that it’s likely a good deal.
Oklahoma is expected to receive more than $5 billion for projects, according to the White House fact sheet from August. Details about how and when funding will be rolled out haven’t been determined.
What is known is that most — about $4.3 billion — will come through the federal highway funding formula. Another $266 million is expected for bridge replacement and repair, $520 million for water infrastructure, $349 million for public transportation and $100 million for broadband access.
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More than 100 federal programs are involved, according to a story from reporter Randy Krehbiel.
Oklahoma needs the money, even though none of the seven congressional members voted for the proposal.
The state’s highway system includes more than 30,000 lane miles and 6,800 bridges, providing major transportation passageways with corridors around Interstates 35, 40 and 44. The infusion of federal money will only enhance the state’s eight-year highway construction plan.
Another possible beneficiary is the Port of Catoosa, another critical link to the national transportation grid. This 50-year-old marvel of engineering connects the Arkansas and Verdigris rivers, the Arkansas Post Canal, the White River and the Mississippi River. At this age, upgrades such as dredging the port and enhancing the rail and roads around it are critical.
The lack of broadband has plagued rural Oklahoma for too long. Having wireless access is not a luxury; it’s an equity issue for education, health care and workforce.
The plan includes $1 billion to reconnect Black and other racial and ethnic communities divided by highways and other infrastructure. Tulsa destroyed its historic Greenwood District — site of the 1921 Race Massacre — when it put Interstate 244 right down the middle.
We hope our congressional delegation will fight for funds to right that wrong.
Criticisms of the infrastructure bill focus on the cost, adding to the national debt. We’re also concerned with keeping debt at a reasonable ratio to the gross domestic product. But this type of spending is what government is supposed to do.
Americans expect wise spending of tax money on projects for the greatest benefit for the greatest number. Constructing a strong foundation for commerce, education and everyday life will pay off for the next few generations.
The percent of national debt to GDP is about 125% and began spiking in 2019 as the pandemic hit, which follows the historical markers of such rises in times of war, recessions, trade wars and tax cuts.
If Congress wants to bring the debt down, there are ways to that through avenues such as taxation, reduced spending or restructuring the debt. Members just need the will, and leadership, to get that done.
For now, the infrastructure plan appears to be a forward-thinking package investing in the country’s future prosperity.
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