From the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system to the internet, America’s great public investments in infrastructure have risen in response to moments of great national challenge — from the Civil War to the Great Depression to the Cold War. These investments laid the groundwork for our nation’s economic strength, built an unprecedented middle class and spurred a digital and innovation revolution that has changed our lives. These investments were all made at moments that demanded greatness and political will.
Following a year of a worldwide pandemic that cost more than 581,000 American lives, 22.5 million American job losses and the closure of over 200,000 American small businesses, we are at a similar inflection point. As we rebuild, our country faces a stark choice of whether we want to compete in the 21st century and be a world leader, or to limit our aspirations.
As mayor of one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, I hope that our leaders will choose the first path, and President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan will take us there by helping us build back better in a way that brings the opportunity for prosperity to communities in every corner of the country.
Tampa is a microcosm of why the American Jobs Plan will make a difference. It will provide funding for critical infrastructure including transportation, water, affordable housing and resilience. In the process of building this new infrastructure, it will create new good-paying career opportunities for those who want to work hard, learn new skills and be part of a vibrant middle class. This will reduce systemic inequities in marginalized communities and promote equality of opportunity for all.
For decades, our growing transportation infrastructure needs have outpaced available revenue to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The American Jobs Plan will provide vital funding to repave miles of streets in Tampa neighborhoods, fix aging bridges that are in need of reconstruction, and invest in vision zero improvements to make our streets safer for all users including bicyclists and pedestrians. The American Jobs Plan will double funding available for public transit, presenting a real opportunity for HART to make impactful changes and investments. We need to make it easier for people without cars to get to jobs, and we can do that while also reducing congestion and carbon emissions.
In addition to transportation, the American Jobs Plan will fund major water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects. In Tampa, we passed the largest infrastructure project in our city’s history — PIPES — that is going to rebuild our aging system of pipes, pumping stations, and treatment facilities. In 2016, Tampa began work on major stormwater infrastructure projects throughout the city to reduce flooding. And we are currently putting together a plan to end surface water discharges of treated water. Combined, these projects are estimated to cost over $4 billion. The American Jobs Plan will provide critical support that will help us meet our growing needs related to water.
The American Jobs Plan will invest in reenergizing our power infrastructure, including clean energy block grants that cities like Tampa will be able to use to mobilize private investment in sustainable technologies, to empower workers and to support environmental justice initiatives. It will help electrify our transportation system by funding hundreds of thousands of charging stations for electric vehicles, and put sunshine to work by installing American-made solar panels on American homes in American neighborhoods. And speaking of neighborhoods, the American Jobs Plan will ensure that everyone has access to broadband regardless of where they live.
The American Jobs Plan is a bold, transformative approach to ensure that the United States is able to out-compete our global competitors and do right by our people. Here in Tampa Bay, a region of champions, we like to win by being the best of the best. Whether it is our sports teams, our entrepreneurial ecosystem or our craft beer scene, we understand that being the best takes hard work, discipline, and investment.
We want our nation to win too, and ranking 13th globally in overall infrastructure, and being outspent by competitors on research and development, is not good enough. It is bad for business, it is bad for workers, and it is bad for national security. The greatest nation in the world must have the greatest infrastructure, the best jobs, and the most opportunity in the world.
The American Jobs Plan is an important step in making this happen in Tampa Bay, in Florida and across the country. It is time to rise to the occasion, put ideology aside, work together and get things done.
Jane Castor is the mayor of Tampa.