Nearly Three Years And $1,200,000,000,000 Later, Biden Has Almost Nothing To Show For His Biggest Domestic Achievement

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Rampant inflation and President Joe Biden’s favoring of left-wing policies are contributing to a lack of progress on his landmark infrastructure law, analysts told the Daily Caller.

Two and a half years after Congress ratified the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in November of 2021, there has been very little concrete progress on new roads or bridges. The trillions of federal dollars the Biden administration has poured into the economy may actually be hindering the completion of the infrastructure that Biden promised to build, analysts told the Caller.

“Right now, the inputs cost 31 percent more than they did in January 2021,” David Ditch, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Caller. “They’ve been flat for, frankly, about two years at this point, but they increased so dramatically right away that even though the amount of available money for highway projects is much higher now than it was in 2021, the value of that spending is lower.”

The lack of headway undercuts Biden’s campaign messaging on “transforming our crumbling transportation infrastructure – including roads and bridges, rail, aviation, ports, and inland waterways.” 

The Biden campaign touted it as “the largest infrastructure plan since President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system.”

The federal government has granted $454 billion to states across 56,000 projects, according to the White House. This commitment of taxpayer dollars would seem to make good on one of Biden’s marquee campaign promises to deliver new bridges and roads to the nation. But of the 10 bridge and highway projects with the most money allocated from the bill, only one — the $1.6 billion Penn Station Access project — has broken ground on major construction.

Connecticut’s WALK Bridge and Maryland’s Frederick Douglass Tunnel project have begun preliminary work on demolition or minor construction, but neither are slated to be completed before 2029, according to Amtrak and RT&S.

Many of the projects, including the $1.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge Project and the $729 million Transforming Rail in Virginia Project, are either still in — or have just completed — the environmental impact study phase of development, an early step in the process.

One of Biden’s most touted campaign initiatives was to “rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and ports,” a line he has repeated ad nauseam, including when he introduced former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to be his Transportation Secretary. Biden tapped Buttigieg, a move he lauded as “precedent-busting,” to help “revitalize the nation’s infrastructure,” according to Politico.

Buttigieg touted the bill’s expenditures as “some of the most meaningful investments in infrastructure we’ve ever seen in this country.”

However, despite Biden making electric vehicles and net zero carbon emissions a tentpole campaign promise, Buttigieg seemed unable to explain why the administration has made so little progress during a recent media appearance.

“The Federal Highway Administration says only seven or eight charging stations have been produced with a 7.5 billion investment that taxpayers made back in 2021. Why isn’t that happening more quickly?” CBS’s Margaret Brennan pressed Buttigieg during a May appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation.

Buttigieg maintained that the administration’s goal was still to produce 500,000 chargers by 2030. He also admitted that, despite billions in taxpayer money going to federally funded charging stations, “most of the charging infrastructure right now is being provided by the private sector.”

And while Buttigieg has remarked that infrastructure projects take time, Ditch noted the uniquely stubborn nature of Biden’s bill. “The 2009 Obama stimulus package was sold in part as funding ‘shovel-ready’ projects, which ended up being a dud due to red tape and delays. The Biden Administration had over a decade to learn from those mistakes and instead leaned into the red tape by adding extra mandates for ideological purposes. Worse, the amount of money in the 2021 infrastructure package was dramatically larger than the comparable portion of the 2009 stimulus, so the damage is far greater,” Ditch argued.

Other countries, meanwhile, seem to have fewer issues in implementing green infrastructure. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics recently announced that they had installed 60 charging stations in the nation’s capital Addis Ababa.

“Currently, Addis has 60 charging stations whilst it would possess 1,176 charging facilities at the end of the Ministry’s 10 years strategic plan. Similarly, some 1,050 charging stations will be installed in different cities of the country. To realize this, the Ministry is working in close with various stakeholders,” Transportation Minister Bareo Hassen told the Ethiopian Press Agency.

Biden’s exorbitant spending increase was likely way too much, too soon, Jeff Davis, Senior Fellow and Editor at Eno Transportation Weekly, told the Daily Caller. “Almost all of that IIJA funding increase has been eaten by sector-specific inflation,” Davis said.

Davis laid out the increases in transit building expenses in a March analysis. He cited the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) quarterly index of highway construction costs, which rose six percent in the third quarter of 2023 over the second, good for a 23.9 percent annualized rate increase.

Davis then explained the real dollar effect inflation is having on the purchasing power of Biden’s spending bills.

“In the July-September 2023 quarter, excluding the emergency relief program, the Federal Highway Administration signed $28.8 billion in new project agreements and other legally binding obligations, which is $5.6 billion (or 24 percent) more than they did in the September 2021 quarter (the last quarter before the bipartisan infrastructure law’s enactment),” Davis wrote in his analysis.

But, Davis notes, once the numbers are adjusted for inflation, the July-September 2023 quarter is “$3.5 billion below the comparable quarter in 2021, a 17 percent cut.”

In other words, “the contracts signed by FHWA have lost $47 billion of their buying power since that time,” Davis concluded.

While many factors have contributed to the precipitous rise in inflation, Biden’s spending bills, particularly the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, have pumped tons of cash into the economy. The funding is mostly for projects that satisfy the Democratic Party’s political purposes as opposed to legitimate infrastructure needs, Ditch argued.

“Even though highways got an increase, they got a relatively smaller increase compared to other things that are more Democratic priorities. So when you add it all up, the value proposition for the American public is extremely negligible,” Ditch told the Daily Caller. “The cost is very high, and even though the projects are being completed more slowly than I think was expected, money is still going out the door, which not only are you getting some sort of an inflationary pressure on the cost of construction, but also just the economy in general.

“When you’re pumping more deficit spending into the economy, you’re getting more inflation. All in all, I would say that we are poorer as a result of Congress having passed this infrastructure package.” (RELATED: Climate Experts Say Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Filled With ‘Wasteful Spending’ On Green Agenda)

Both Ditch and Davis noted that once the money is appropriated from federal funds to the states, the state authorities are largely responsible for the speed and rate at which the projects are completed. Ditch pointed out, however, that Biden may be using his bully pulpit to put his thumb on the scale as to which projects take precedence over others, a process he described as being rife with “woke red tape.”

The FHWA issued a memo in December 2021 that asked grant recipients to prioritize equity and climate concerns.

“This Policy will help improve safety and accessibility for all road users, reduce the environmental impact of highway and bridge projects, including curtailing transportation greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, better accommodate new and emerging transportation technologies, reduce relocations and otherwise ensure that transportation agencies do not expand roadways in inequitable ways that disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities,” the memo reads in part.

Republican West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered strong resistance to the memo.

“We were disappointed to read the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) memorandum entitled ‘Policy on Using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Resources to Build a Better America’ issued on December 16, 2021. Unfortunately, the FHWA memorandum attempts to implement a wish list of policies not reflected in the IIJA. These policies, such as discouraging projects that increase highway capacity and prioritizing projects that advance non-motorized transportation options, differ from the provisions negotiated and agreed to in the law,” the Senators wrote in a February 2022 letter to state governors.

The Biden administration later issued a superseded version of the memo with less aggressive language surrounding equity and climate. The updated version, however, did say grantees should prioritize “[a]ddressing environmental impacts ranging from storm water runoff to greenhouse gas emissions,” “infrastructure that is less vulnerable and more resilient to a changing climate” and “[r]econnecting communities and reflecting the inclusion of disadvantaged and under-represented groups in the planning, project selection, and design process.”

Shortly after the infrastructure bill passed, they tried to issue ‘guidance.’ They issued a guidance memo that was directing states to … essentially saying the federal government would make highway expansion projects low priority, even though there was nothing in the legislation to say that they had the authorization to make that decision,” Ditch told the Daily Caller.

“Congress pushed back fairly hard, and a couple of months later, the administration sort of walked that back, said, ‘Okay, we will still be authorizing the expansion projects.’ But I would wager that still had somewhat of a chilling effect on state governments looking to apply … essentially when federal money is involved, the states have to get approval for a particular project. I don’t know exactly how much of a chilling effect it would have, but again I’m sure it’s nonzero.” 

Despite Republicans’ opposition to how the legislation was implemented, the president needed some of them to help him pass it.

Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in November 2021. The $1.2 trillion legislation required the support of 13 House Republicans to pass, as six Democrats voted against it.

Biden praised other Congressional Republicans, including McConnell, for their efforts in helping getting it passed.