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One year in, WI communities measure impact of infrastructure law

fotosmile777 - stock.adobe.com

Wednesday was the first anniversary of the signing of the federal infrastructure law.

Groups pushing for support for Wisconsin towns and cities say implementation is providing hope overlooked areas will get the jolts they need.

Zach Vruwink, deputy executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, said so far, nearly $3 billion in projects for the state have been announced with funding from the law. Most are transportation-related, and Vruwink argued it is badly needed, as many areas have backlogs for priorities like road and bridge repairs.

"Many of the municipalities have had projects delayed, or had to shelve them, due to lack of funding," Vruwink pointed out. "By having a real strong federal partnership in the area of infrastructure helps address some of the backlog."

The law will also provide states funding for clean water infrastructure and expansion of high-speed internet. Funding from the $1.2 trillion package was scheduled to be spread out over five years. The plan had some Republican opposition, but has otherwise been hailed by political analysts as a bipartisan achievement.

Despite the significance of the law, some analysts said it has not stayed on the public's radar, especially during the recent election, but supporters are still getting the word out.

Meghan Roh, program director for Opportunity Wisconsin, which has spent the last year educating communities about the benefits of these projects, said people need to understand the effect of such a significant investment.

"Whether we're spending less on car repairs due to updated roads and bridges, having access to safe drinking water or improved mass transit opportunities, this law is a once-in-a-generation investment in our state's infrastructure and competitiveness," Roh stressed.

And as more projects are announced, Roh noted it means additional, well-paid union jobs for distressed areas. She added the long-term benefits from various improvements should particularly help rural areas and underserved communities.

An interactive online map from the White House shows the projects so far are spread fairly evenly across Wisconsin.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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