- The Washington Times
Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Officials in the D.C. area have a laundry list of what they think should be prioritized in President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal.

The White House on Monday released a state-by-state breakdown of infrastructure needs, the breakdowns included issues such as the number of roads that are in poor condition and the amount of residents burdened by a lack of affordable housing.

D.C. Council member Anita Bonds, at-large Democrat, told The Washington Times that she believes affordable housing and home energy needs are “closely aligned” as the dominating issues for the city.

According to the federal report, at least 79,000 of the city’s more than 700,000 residents are “rent burdened,” which means more than 30% of their income goes toward rent due to a lack of affordable housing. The Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan (AJP) would allocate more than $200 billion to address housing issues nationwide.

Ms. Bonds, who chairs the Housing and Executive Administration Committee, said in an email that it is “exciting to see we will have resources to increase our affordable housing supply.”

“I look forward that at a minimum 20-30% of units [will] be affordable for incomes at 60% and below Area Medium Income (AMI) to allow retail, nonprofit and service industry households to have safe sanitary and quality living environments,” Ms. Bonds said.

The federal report also states many low-income families in the District “are forced to make tough choices between paying energy bills and buying food, medicine or other essentials.”

Ms. Bonds said the AJP investment in energy-efficiency upgrades to low-income homes “will be a lifesaver” for those whose properties are in disrepair.

Council member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, told The Times that the federal funds will be crucial to repair and maintain the eight bridges and more than 400 miles of highway around the city that are reportedly in poor condition.

“The financial investments of the [AJP] will be essential in responding to the needs of high density and high commuter jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia — especially as our infrastructure responsibilities are often divided between local and federal management,” said Ms. Cheh, who chairs the Transportation and Environment Committee.

In Virginia, 577 bridges and more than 2,124 miles of highway are reportedly in poor condition, and 10% of trains and other modes of transit are “past useful life.”

Rob Cary, chief deputy commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, said federal funds will be “critical” to help address increased pressure on the state’s multimodal transportation. He said the commonwealth’s population is expected to grow from 8.5 million to 10 million over the next 25 years.

“It would provide funding to enhance the use of electric vehicles, modernize highways and transit, support airport-related renovations, and enhance port facilities to improve freight movement,” Mr. Cary said in an email.

Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, recently told 13NewsNow in Hampton that he is particularly concerned that 9.7% of the state’s residents live in an area that lacks proper broadband infrastructure.

In Maryland, there are 273 bridges and more than 2,201 miles of highways that are reportedly in poor condition, and 23% of trains and other modes of transit are past useful life.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said in an email that funding has not been sufficient to address the area’s transit maintenance backlogs that have accumulated over decades.

The AJP, he said, would help to make necessary transit repairs and to expand transit service “to address economic and racial equity concerns.”

“We’ve got to maintain our existing infrastructure, promote meaningful public transit, provide a multitude of solutions to address climate change and preserve and produce affordable housing while also preparing our future generations through better and more equitable education, workforce trainings and access to broadband,” said Mr. Elrich, a Democrat.

According to the federal report, more than 350,000 of Maryland’s more than 6 million residents are rent burdened and nearly 4% live in an area without adequate broadband infrastructure.

Mr. Elrich said “we are long overdue” for a comprehensive federal infrastructure investment with ambitious goals like President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.

Jack McDougle, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Metropolitan Board of Trade, said his organization would like to see the Biden administration “match their ambition with practicality.”

“In other words, while we may agree on the ‘what’, the ‘how’ is equally if not more important,” Mr. McDougle said in an email. “The Administration must be sensible and strategic in how it executes a plan of this scale.”

Corrected from earlier to accurately reflect the name of the trade group Mr. McDougle represents. It is the Greater Washington Metropolitan Board of Trade.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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