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Nearly a year after President Joe Biden called on the federal government to quickly and efficiently dole out $1 trillion to shore up the nation’s roads and bridges, his infrastructure coordinator is still working on spreading the word to Americans about the domestic policy achievement.
Mitch Landrieu, the president’s infrastructure coordinator and former mayor of New Orleans, told Bloomberg Government in an interview on Wednesday that it will take years for federal, state, and local officials to yield Biden’s promised results, including fewer lead pipes and stronger bridges.
As of early June, only 24% of voters were even aware that the bipartisan infrastructure deal became a law, according to a poll of 2,000 likely voters by the center-left think tank Third Way and Impact Research.
“When you’re building stuff, it’s not like you’re shooting a firecracker,” Landrieu said. “It takes time.”
The president wants big-ticket projects to be boosted with funds from the infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58) that was enacted in November. There are large signature roads and bridges projects that require interstate cooperation, including the Blatnik Bridge connecting Duluth, Minn. and Superior, Wis., Brent Spence Bridge between Kentucky and Ohio, the I-5 Corridor along the West Coast, and Amtrak’s Northeastern Corridor, Landrieu said.
“While they’re not guaranteed funding, [these] are the kinds of major projects that move people and actually really are necessary for interstate commerce,” Landrieu said.
The Gateway project is critical for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Washington to Boston and is known as the most congested rail route in the US. The project includes building a new commuter-rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Gateway is a great opportunity “to make sure we fill the gaps and get this program done,” Landrieu said. “But it’s complex.” He added that multiple states and local partners need to coordinate on the Hudson Tunnel.
Landrieu also said he’s been traveling the country to explain to people how funds from the infrastructure law will be used to clean up the environment — replacing lead pipes, overhauling sewage treatment plants, and cleaning up lakes. The bill delivers money for a range of EPA programs, including $15 billion for the revolving fund for lead service line replacement, $11.7 billion for the state revolving fund for drinking water, and $3.5 billion for Superfund site cleanup.
Listen to the full conversation below:
Lillianna Byington in Washington and Stephen Lee in Washington also contributed to this story.