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Infrastructure funding provides an unprecedented opportunity to address America’s safety, equity, and climate crises

Nov 06, 2021

Success hinges on how funding is implemented at the state and federal level 

Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of NACTO, issued the following statement in response to the House’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: 

Late last evening, the House voted to advance the long-awaited Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, granting the U.S. new, unprecedented levels of funding for its infrastructure needs. With the bill’s passage comes a $1.2 trillion opportunity to directly address America’s safety, equity, and climate crises. 

The extraordinary infusion of funding in the infrastructure bill largely continues to fund transportation the way we have for decades–through a combination of few-strings-attached funding to states, and competitive grant programs administered by USDOT. How states spend the funds they receive, and how USDOT designs, administers, and selects projects for its grant programs will determine if the Administration will meet its safety, climate, and equity goals.

Traditionally, states have spent formula federal transportation funds–which this bill funds to the tune of $300 billion–on expanding highways, an unsustainable practice that locks in years of higher greenhouse gas emissions. We urge states across the country to take a new approach, emulating promising policies like Colorado’s proposed greenhouse gas performance measure, Virginia’s proposed Smart Scale prioritization tool, and California’s “fix it first” Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure.

USDOT must also hold states to account by closely and transparently tracking how states are spending federal transportation funds, scrutinizing projects that will result in expanded highways, higher greenhouse gas emissions, and more deaths on our streets, and using its authority under NEPA and Title VI to more closely assess projects that will harm the environment or increase racial disparities in our transportation system.

The infrastructure bill provides unprecedented funding–over $100 billion–to new safety, maintenance, and climate-oriented grant programs that will need thoughtful implementation to fulfill their potential. USDOT must use its authority to design programs and select projects that bolster transit, make streets safer, and squarely address the severe racial inequities built into America’s transportation system. We look forward to working with the Administration, Secretary Buttigieg, and the agencies under his leadership to design programs that meet the country’s needs and aspirations, rather than continuing with the status quo. 

Finally, Congress must commit to passing the inspired transportation programs in the Build Back Better Act, which would connect the communities most in need to transit, track our transportation system’s climate emissions, and provide funding for transformative projects that address climate and reconnect communities separated by sparsely-used highways. These provisions–totalling 1% of the proposed bill’s cost–promise to have the most impact per dollar of any federal transportation policy proposed in decades. 

Passing infrastructure funding was the first step. Now begins the hard work of selecting the projects–and building the surrounding programs for them–that will squarely address America’s safety, inequity, and climate crises. America’s cities are ready for the hard work ahead, and we look forward to working with states and the Administration to design programs and select projects that will result in a brighter future for everyone who calls the United States home. 

About the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
NACTO is an association of 91 major North American cities and transit agencies formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues. The organization’s mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible, and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life. To learn more, visit or follow us on Twitter at @NACTO.

Alex Engel | [email protected]

For Immediate Release
November 6, 2021