More than a pretty highway. Why care about the Infrastructure Act?

More than a pretty highway. Why care about the Infrastructure Act?

By Sue Ballenski, Fort Collins Chapter

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) is being heralded as a once in a generation investment in our infrastructure. So what is actually in the bill? The impression given by the news media is that BIF is a long list of projects with price tags. But in reality, the law allocates dollars at the national level by amending existing laws and creating new programs. States, or other entities, will compete for dollars. Roughly $650 billion is allocated to existing transportation and highway programs. The other $550 billion is new spending. For these reasons, the numbers given by the media for what Colorado may receive are, at best, estimates and vary widely.

States, counties, organizations and businesses will be applying for funds through long-standing bureaucratic scoring mechanisms, like the Federal Highway Fund, or through new grant programs, like the Clean School Bus program. Will Colorado compete well for these funds? The answer is yes. BIF has many requirements for resilience in the face of an unstable climate and for creating infrastructure that is equitable, efficient, and safe. Colorado has already demonstrated alignment with these goals in the Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, the Colorado Water Plan, and the 2021 transportation bill. Colorado’s governments, organizations, and businesses can use these as strong evidence of consistency in goals, prior planning, and commitment. Also, the State’s funding in the 2021 transportation bill makes Colorado projects more enticing since Colorado has dollars to contribute.

Climate-wise, BIF scores low in reducing emissions. Still, there is a lot to like in this law. While it doesn’t regulate GHG emissions, it does start to move our national infrastructure into the future by planning, funding, and encouraging change. The carrot of money incentivizes the nation to include climate in thinking about projects and using climate-related language. This is a powerful tool for change.

Here is a highlight list of climate, energy, and conservation related priorities, funding, and grants:


  • Priorities and project criteria are modified to improve resiliency to withstand natural disasters, like storms, flooding or wildfires (including evacuation routes) and provide greater protections for pedestrians and bikes
  • Provides grants for electric charging stations, and hydrogen or natural gas fueling stations
  • Creates programs to reduce congestion in large cities
  • Provides grants for the repair and modernization of public transportation with non-polluting options, including school buses

Electric Vehicles (EV)

  • Creates a working group to make recommendations on development, adoption, and integration of EV into transportation and electrical systems
  • Provides grants for recycling of batteries to ensure the US has a viable source of materials to manufacture batteries

Conservation and Water

  • Provides funds for wildlife crossings
  • Encourages the use of natural features along transportation corridors, like marshes, for flood control
  • Provides grants for the planting of pollinators along highways
  • Provides grants to repair culverts and remove dams to facilitate fish migrations
  • Provides funding to implement the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan, as well as aquatic ecosystem restoration and endangered species recovery
  • Provides grants for small reservoirs and ground water storage projects; and funding for water storage projects previously authorized by Congress

Healthy Streets

  • Provides grants for the use of cool pavement and porous pavement, expansion of tree cover, and general mitigation of urban heat island effect

Electrical Grid

  • Provides grants to harden facilities from natural disasters and reduce the risk of causing a wildfire
  • Creates a demonstration project to show use of used EV batteries for grid services

Energy Efficiency

  • Provides funding to switch transportation lighting and traffic control signals to energy efficient alternatives
  • Provides grants for building weatherization and increasing efficiency at public school buildings


  • Provides funding for federal agencies and grants for other entities to conduct fuel reduction in urban-wildland interface or public drinking water source areas
  • Creates a federal job series for wildland firefighters who will work year-round at firefighting and fuel reduction (with funding for hiring)
  • Provides increased dollars for fire suppression and reforestation

Alternative Energy

  • Funds research, development and use of hydrogen as a fuel source
  • Provides financial and technical assistance for research and reports on potential use of nuclear power in micro-reactors, small modular reactors, and advanced nuclear reactors in isolated communities
  • Provides incentives for hydropower owners to upgrade and harden facilities
  • Provides dollars for geothermal and wind power under existing authorities

Methane Reduction

  • Provides funding for agencies to plug, remediate, and reduce the inventory of idled and orphaned wells on federal lands
  • Provides grants for state programs to do similar work on state and private land

Carbon Reduction

  • Provides grants, loans, and funding for demonstration and pilot projects of large scale carbon capture, transport, and sequestration

Take Action

  • Thank your Representative and our Senators for passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Let those who voted against it know your appreciation for the law and encourage them to take action against climate change.