The final approval of a federal infrastructure bill is far from certain, but the construction industry in New York hopes — and expects — the state will benefit from the measure.
Studies have shown New York's infrastructure — roads, tunnels and bridges — is in need of an upgrade after years of neglect.
"In many ways New York's infrastructure is in worse shape than other parts of the country," said Mike Elmendorf, the president and CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York. "So this really seems like a once-in-a-generation opportunity that's going to help us catch up."
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has successfully sought funding for the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, now named after his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. He's also pressed for federal aid in constructing a new tunnel under the Hudson River to connect New York with New Jersey. And he's sought upgrades for airports around the state.
Last month, Cuomo in a joint statement with National Governors Association Co-Chairman Asa Hutchinson cheered a potential infrastructure deal, but also said state governments should retain the ability to determine how state-level investments are made.
A bipartisan deal in Congress with President Joe Biden is not guaranteed and lawmakers are continuing to negotiate the finer details. But if approved, it could send inject billions of dollars in needed upgrades for key infrastructure, and aiding an economic recovery following the pandemic. It may help, too, that New York's Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, is playing a key role.
"You've got to figure in particular it's going to be good news for New York," Elmendorf said. "It's going to represent a significant increase in funding for infrastructure, which we need, and it's really going to drive economic recovery, which is really critical at this point post-pandemic."
This isn't the first time Congress and a president administration sought to spend on infrastructure in order to pull out of a recession.
More than a decade ago, the Obama administration sought to pull the country out of a recession through an infrastructure plan that emphasized so-called shovel-ready projects. That approach, Elmendorf said, wasn't perfect.
"There was a lot of work that was done that resulted in work, but maybe in terms of long-term thinking it wasn't the type of projects that should have been done," Elmendorf said. "It was just the type of projects that could be done quickly."
Now Congress is focusing on a broader array of infrastructure projects nationwide that would likely lead to the creation of spinoff jobs as a result of the spending.
"It's not just the men and women you see out there working on these construction projects, but everything that's behind it — the materials, the professionals, the design," Elmendorf said. "It is a huge economic impact."