U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. Murkowski held a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 to promote the provisions related to Alaska included the infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. Murkowski held a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 to promote the provisions related to Alaska included the infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘A win for Alaska’

Murkowski celebrates passage of federal infrastructure bill

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski celebrated the passage of the trillion-dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act during a press conference with Alaska reporters on Wednesday, during which she broke out some of the bill’s implications for Alaska. The conference was held in person in Anchorage but was also made available via Zoom.

The legislation includes $550 billion in new spending on infrastructure over five years and was primarily advanced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that included Murkowski. It passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 5 by a vote of 228 to 206 and in the Senate over the summer.

Among other things, the legislation includes $42 billion in grants for U.S. states for the deployment of broadband and $273 billion in federal-aid highway formula funding that will provide about $3.5 billion in highway funding for Alaska over five years. That’s in addition to $225 million Alaska should receive to repair structurally deficient bridges.

As part of infrastructure related to natural resources, wildfire management and ecosystem restoration, the legislation includes $3.3 billion. That is meant to be used to conduct mechanical thinning, controlled burns, fuel breaks and other activities on U.S. Department of the Interior and Forest Service Lands. An additional $100 million is included for workforce training for firefighting and vegetation management that includes Alaska Native village fire crews.

Murkowski heralded the inclusion of $1 billion for a program that will provide essential ferry services to Alaska’s rural communities. The program was proposed by Murkowski and includes money for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“For the first time ever, federal highway aid funds can be used on operation and repair of our Alaska Marine Highway,” Murkowski said. “That’s a new use and so that is significant.”

In response to partisan jabs at Republican lawmakers who voted in support of the bill, including Rep. Don Young, Murkowski emphasized the importance of focusing on “good, solid policy.”

“There’s been some comments that the infrastructure bill is not something that a Republican should support because it allows President Biden a win — it is a win for Alaska,” Murkowski said. “When we can upgrade our infrastructure, it is a win for Alaska.”

Murkowski said Wednesday that President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation, which passed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 69-30, Monday.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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