The bipartisan infrastructure deal is a historic win for North Dakota. The bill designates $2 billion to improve our state’s roads and bridges, expand clean manufacturing, and equip North Dakota farmers and business owners with the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century. From growing regional economies to creating jobs and expanding reliable internet access, this legislation will be a game-changer for rural, tribal, and urban communities alike.
For years, North Dakota’s transportation infrastructure has been neglected. Hundreds of miles of our state highways are in desperate need of repair, and the U.S. Department of Transportation ranks fewer than two-thirds of North Dakota’s bridges in “good” condition. The bipartisan infrastructure bill contains provisions to make roads and bridges safe and resilient, particularly in the face of extreme weather events that increase the likelihood of deadly accidents. In addition to roadway improvements, this infrastructure bill includes the largest federal investment in public transportation ever, which will reduce auto emissions, improve air quality, and shorten lengthy commute times for many North Dakotans.
Road repair needs are disproportionately high in rural areas, where fatal car crashes occur twice as often as on urban roads. Rural residents need access to safe highways to reach far-away emergency services, which are urgently needed as COVID-19 resurges in small towns and agricultural communities. Further, fixing rural transportation networks will help grow local economies and lift the quality of life in rural areas across the state. Modernizing transportation infrastructure is key to attracting new businesses and industry, as well as expanding access to markets for farmers and small business owners.
High-speed internet is rapidly becoming a necessity for accessing health care, enhancing learning and workforce training, and ensuring North Dakota businesses remain competitive in 21st-century markets. However, high costs and a lack of broadband infrastructure are often barriers to reliable internet service. A national digital divide is particularly acute between rural and urban communities – 39% of rural Americans and 32% of tribal populations lack access to high-speed broadband service, compared to just 4% of urban Americans. The infrastructure bill will deploy investments in broadband expansion projects to our country’s Heartland and help connect all underserved North Dakotans to the resources they need to succeed in the modern economy.
Energy provisions in the infrastructure bill will create good-paying union jobs and increase the resiliency of rural America’s power grid. The legislation dedicates significant funding to advance carbon capture and clean energy manufacturing, including a $12.5 billion investment for carbon sequestration which could be a boon to existing projects in North Dakota. Carbon capture sequestration opens the door for North Dakota farmers to lead climate change solutions by reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously profiting from storing carbon in their soil.
Meanwhile, even as coal mines that have helped power our state’s grid and rural economies close, many of the 1,500 to 1,800 abandoned mines in western North Dakota continue to pose health risks to local communities by polluting our air, drinking water, and physical environment. The infrastructure deal will revitalize hard-hit energy economies by investing $21 billion in projects to reclaim abandoned mines and clean up orphaned oil and gas wells – creating jobs even as it helps improve the health and safety of North Dakotan communities.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill represents a unique opportunity for Congress to address the problems facing North Dakota. By revitalizing our nation’s infrastructure, this historic bill will help equip every American with the tools they need to succeed and create a stronger, brighter, and more sustainable economy for future generations.