Biden hails infrastructure plan on ‘Red-Listed’ bridge in Woodstock

(PAULA TRACY PHOTO)

NORTH WOODSTOCK — Flanked by New Hampshire’s all-Democratic delegation, President Joe Biden strode across the red-listed Green Bridge Tuesday to announce how the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be a turning point in the nation’s history.

This, Biden said, is about “investing in ourselves. “We will build an economy for the 21st century that matters.”

After a three-and-a-half-hour conversation Monday night with China’s Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Biden said he was asked by the leader if he could define America.

"I looked at him and I said ‘yes,’ I can in one word. Possibilities. Think about it. Of all the nations in the world, we’re the only one, the only nation I can think of that has come out of crisis stronger than we went into it,” Biden said.

Americans have always believed anything is possible, he said. “Give Americans half a chance,” Biden said, and this new law “gives everybody a chance.”

Biden said in 50 years when historians write about this time, the passage of this act will be considered the turning point. It is the beginning of the time America reasserted itself, Biden said.

Biden came to the 82-year-old original steel arched bridge spanning the Pemigewasset River which has been red-listed as in need of repairs by the state since 2013. He was introduced by Victoria Sheehan, New Hampshire’s commissioner of the Department of Transportation who said the funding provides for a 24 percent increase in funding for each of the four federal highway programs. Over the next five years, it will include another $225 million for bridges. Airports and public transportation will also see a 30 percent increase from prior funding levels.

“So with the bill now signed into law, my team will work with the state’s Executive Council, Gov. Chris Sununu, and the legislature to make sure we put these funds to good use,” Sheehan said.

New Hampshire stands to receive more than $1.5 billion for widened culverts, improved internet, and other investments linking rural communities with the world, Biden said.

In addition to what locals call the Green Bridge the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes money for bridges and roads and for:

• Federal rail investments including locally for Amtrak and to rebuild the Capitol Corridor Project.

• To expand broadband coverage.

• For water infrastructure.

• For the Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income home energy use.

• For dam safety and hydropower production.

• For the electric grid.

• For electric vehicle charging stations.

• To reduce methane emissions by plugging old oil wells.

• To advance direct air capture technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Biden said although this is a gigantic bill, it is really about making a difference for the ordinary people and issues that are faced at the kitchen table.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said the landmark legislation would provide a $550 billion investment in our nation’s core infrastructure priorities – including roads and bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, the electric grid, and broadband.

In a statement following the passage, Shaheen said “No parent should worry about the safety of their family’s water when they turn on the tap, but unfortunately, as most of us know, this is not the case for too many Americans because compromised water supplies, due in part to our run-down water infrastructure, is an issue across this country and in some places in New Hampshire.”

It began to lightly snow when Biden walked across the bridge to local and national media and a small cadre of guests, like White Mountain Lumber executive Eamon Kelley, who was invited to the event by U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

“As both a New Hampshire State Representative and a business owner in the region, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package is very exciting for our state and our economy,” said Kelley. “By repairing and expanding our hard infrastructure, it will make it easier to transport goods – like lumber – and for Granite State families to travel and live their lives. I want to thank Rep. Kuster for her advocacy on behalf of New Hampshire in this package, and for always standing up for our Granite State economy.”

Gov. Chris Sununu welcomed Biden at the airport in Manchester but did not attend the event in Woodstock.

“After greeting the President and welcoming him back to New Hampshire, I mentioned the need to work together to help invest these infrastructure dollars wisely,” said Sununu. "We talked briefly about inflation and workforce shortages. We discussed the concerns of rising fuel costs and he mentioned his conversation with President Xi and the possibility of opening both US and China oil reserves. It was a very pleasant conversation, I wished him well, and I appreciate his willingness to engage on these important issues.”

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