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WI Communities Prepare to Receive Federal Infrastructure Funding

Six months ago this week, President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure law, and Wisconsin's towns and cities are planning how best to spend billions of dollars earmarked for the state.

The law includes more than half a billion dollars to improve the state's public transportation.

Satya Rhodes-Conway, mayor of Madison, said at a news conference at a city bus garage Tuesday the city will be using some of the resources to help fund a new fleet of nearly fifty electric buses, which will save the city nearly a quarter million gallons of diesel fuel annually.

"And we will save up to 135 metric tons of greenhouse gases for each bus each year," Rhodes-Conway explained. "That's a really remarkable reduction in our climate-change contributions."

The package also includes new funding to support rural broadband access, about $5.2 billion to rehabilitate Wisconsin's highways and $225 million to address its failing bridges. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, nearly a thousand of Wisconsin's bridges were considered structurally deficient as of last year.

The measure also includes $841 million spread over five years to improve the state's drinking water infrastructure.

Rhodes-Conway pointed out the state is also anticipating $12.8 million annually to help address Perfluorinated and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) and other chemical contamination across the state. PFAS, a family of human-made chemicals, are an issue in several Wisconsin communities, and remediation can be costly. Madison is designing a roughly $500,000 filtration system to address PFAS pollution at one of its drinking-water wells.

"If we get the funds from the infrastructure act, and the filtration system is built, it's likely to be the first municipal PFAS treatment facility in the state," Rhodes-Conway noted. "There's no doubt that more municipalities will follow."

Rhodes-Conway added Madison still is finalizing its PFAS remediation strategy, and the federal government needs to give final approval to those plans before the city can receive the funding.

Tuesday's news conference was the first in a series of events hosted by the advocacy groups Opportunity Wisconsin and For Our Future Wisconsin highlighting how the infrastructure law will benefit the state.

Jonah Chester is Wisconsin Public Radio's 2022-2023 Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. He most recently worked at Public News Service, a national radio news service, where he covered Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He previously produced the 6 O'Clock News at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he won numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for his reporting on issues in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.
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