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Biden administration debuts program to repair 15,000 bridges

The program is the latest initiative related to the president's $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal.

WASHINGTON (CN) — An estimated 15,000 highway bridges across the country are set to get an upgrade thanks to a $26.5 billion program announced Friday by the Department of Transportation, giving the American public a taste of what last fall's infrastructure bill is already setting into motion.

The five-year program will dole out an estimated $5.3 billion this fiscal year for states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico to fund bridge repairs. An estimated $165 million is allocated to Native American tribes.

States typically have to match a certain amount of federal funds with state dollars, but the new bridge plan allows for local bridge rehabilitation without states contributing money.

The Department of Transportation described the project as the "single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system," which began in the 1950s during the Eisenhower administration.

President Joe Biden spoke Friday afternoon on how the investment is the product of his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan that passed Congress late last year.

“This investment is going to help connect entire towns and regions to new opportunities," the president said in an address from the White House. "With this investment, we’re sending a message to those communities and the people who call them home, ‘You matter.’”

But bridges are only one facet of the historic plan, which aims to invest in everything from broadband internet access to renewable energy.

A fact sheet released Friday by the White House specifies among other things a program to create a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations.

An estimated $7.4 billion is allocated through the plan for states to upgrade their water programs and the administration has set a 10-year timeline for replacing all lead pipes in the country's water infrastructure.

Biden said the Department of Transportation has released $53 billion in federal funds to update highways, and more than $240 million in grants are being distributed to improve ports throughout the country amid ongoing strain in the international supply chain.

The president described the infrastructure investments as “long overdue.” 

He characterized the massive legislation as a win, while alluding to political frustrations that significant portions of his agenda, including recent legislation on voting rights and the social safety net, have stalled out in Congress.

“There is a lot of talk about disappointments in things we didn’t get done, we’re going to get a lot of them done, but this is something we did get done,” Biden said. 

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