Politics

A year after its passage, infrastructure bill sends over $2.6 billion to Alaska

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WASHINGTON — A year after the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed, Alaska has been allotted more than $2.6 billion, making the state one of the top recipients per capita in the country.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will ultimately provide $550 billion for infrastructure improvements across the country, distributing funding over five years to improve roads, internet connectivity, and provide clean water, among other initiatives. Democrats and several Republicans supported the bill, including Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and the late Rep. Don Young.

Murkowski was part of a group that led negotiations on the bill. She called the legislation “one of the most significant measures I’ve ever worked on,” in a statement last week.

As the federal government continues to dole out infrastructure money over the next four years, Alaska is poised to receive the most funding per capita. A CNBC analysis estimated that $6,700 per resident will come into the state. Already, the bill has allotted money for more than 300 projects in Alaska.

Some of the top-funded projects include:

• $363 million to improve national highways in Alaska.

• $250 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to operate and maintain the Port of Nome.

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• $209 million for ferry service for rural communities. The bill has allocated an additional $35.6 million to the Alaska Marine Highway System for the construction of ferries and ferry terminal facilities.

• $187 million has been designated to build a new border station between Alaska and Canada near Tok.

According to the White House, in Alaska, $1.5 billion of infrastructure bill money has been approved to revamp Alaska bridges and roads, and so far Alaska has received about $402 million for ports and waterways.

Internet access is another focus of the bill. Several tribal groups or Alaska Native corporations have applied to take home a piece of the $65 billion the bill allocates for broadband improvements. Last month, the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Interior Alaska received $30 million to develop high-speed internet. Also, according to the White House, more than 12,000 Alaska households have enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, an infrastructure law initiative that provides discounts for internet bills.

[Starlink begins providing high-speed satellite internet in Alaska]

The Biden administration touts the infrastructure bill as one of its top accomplishments. On a Nov. 14 call with reporters, White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu poked fun at the Trump administration’s infrastructure week — which was repeatedly derailed — calling the legislation the start of the “infrastructure decade.”

However, some Republicans, including Sullivan and Murkowski’s Republican Senate challenger Kelly Tshibaka, have been critical of the bill’s rollout, saying that permitting reform is necessary to expedite the infrastructure projects. Murkowski said she is also supportive of permitting reform.

“The permitting piece of it is huge, because we can authorize funding for projects, but if they get mired in a permitting process, that just is interminable,” Murkowski said in an interview last week. “How we can reform our permitting process has been something that has been a priority on both sides of the aisle.”

Murkowski has made implementing the bill one of her top priorities. She has hosted symposiums in Alaska to educate constituents about the grant opportunities that the legislation provides.

“Remember this was just year one of a five-year bill,” Murkowski said. “And so we’ve got to be working on that implementation all the time with folks back in the state.”

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Reporter Riley Rogerson is a full-time reporter for the ADN based in Washington, D.C. Her position is supported by Report for America, which is working to fill gaps in reporting across America and to place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations around the country. Report for America, funded by both private and public donors, covers up to 50% of a reporter’s salary. It’s up to Anchorage Daily News to find the other half, through local community donors, benefactors, grants or other fundraising activities.

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Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at rrogerson@adn.com.

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