Louisiana Airports Awarded Grant for Airport Infrastructure

Nearly three million dollars was recently granted in two grants to Acadiana airports in Louisiana, Congressman Clay Higgins announced recently. The grants, which came from the U.S. Department of Transportation, are set to help revamp the infrastructure of the airports. These are important pieces of infrastructure to local and state communities, and the grants will go towards the first phase in a seven phase project to construct a 100,000 square-foot terminal building.

“Our regional airports serve as important economic and travel hubs for our communities,” said Congressman Higgins. “Investing in our local infrastructure will continue to promote economic growth and benefit families and businesses in South Louisiana.”

We’ve written previously about the need to invest in our airports. They’re an important facet of our infrastructure, and our communities, that help businesses to grow and expand. The GAIN coalition is glad to see the Department of Transportation awarding grants for improvements to our airport infrastructure, and we’re happy to see that the trend of investing in our air travel is continuing. Moving forward, airport infrastructure cannot be overlooked as legislation is crafted. We hope to see more funding such as this granted in the future.

The GAIN Coalition Attends the CBCF’s 47th Annual Legislative Conference

 

The GAIN Coalition strives to take advantage of opportunities to continue the national dialogue about the benefits of increased infrastructure investment. This week in Washington, DC, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation will hold its 47th Annual Legislative Conference, a 4-day policy conference. To raise awareness and spur further discussion on the importance of rebuilding our infrastructure, GAIN will host a panel at the conference on Thursday, September 21 in Room 146C from 3:30pm – 5pm.

GAIN Strategic Adviser Former Congressman Al Wynn will moderate, and participants include panelists from across the infrastructure industry including: Ryan Boyer, the Business Manager for Laborer’s District Council of Philadelphia, American Association of Blacks in Energy President Paula Glover, and P. Anthony Thomas of the California Independent Petroleum Association. Each panelist will join Congressman Wynn in examining how broadening, improving, and expanding our nation’s energy infrastructure can benefit all.

The opportunities that infrastructure investments create are seen in many forms—from increased tax revenues that can be funneled into better public schools and transportation to more affordable utility prices, and of course, jobs. We look forward to engaging these distinguished leaders in government, the private sector, and labor, to forge a path to bringing more members of our national community into the mission to Grow America’s Infrastructure Now.

We Can’t Forget About Our Electric Grid

While the discussion on the future of our infrastructure most often focuses on roads, bridges, and pipelines, there is an unsung hero of American infrastructure equally worthy of our attention and focus. There are more than 700,000 miles of high voltage wires that span from coast to coast, making up the interstate electricity system that lets us flip a switch and light up the room. It’s a part of our lives so integrated in the day to day that we hardly think about how it needs to be modernized and updated to maintain its efficiency.

Recent events like hurricanes Harvey and Irma, or the solar eclipse, have brought our electric grid closer to the front of our national discourse, calling attention to this aging system that so many people rely on. While these events have shined a spotlight on our electric grid, they really underscore the long standing need to reinvest in our electric infrastructure. Demand on the grid continues to grow, placing undue stress on a network that was designed and built decades ago. We need to recognize the importance of upgrading our interstate electricity system to seamlessly handle the demands of a modern United States.

There are already some efforts to update our electric grid underway, and we commend those steps towards restoring America’s infrastructure glory. The GAIN coalition hopes to see a greater focus on this truly vital part of our infrastructure. Our electric grid can act as a foundation, a base to build up from so we can once again make our infrastructure the envy of the world.

Verizon Infrastructure Maintains Coverage During Irma

When storms like Irma touch ground, having a fully charged, fully connected cell phone is extremely important for the safety of those affected. FEMA went so far as to release guidelines for proper cell phone use during a storm, and how to make your battery last as long as possible. Proper cell coverage during a storm allows us to contact our loved ones, to receive updates on the storms progression, and, most importantly, to contact authorities and emergency services if necessary. Cellphone companies recognize the importance of battery life and cell coverage, and took steps to ensure coverage for as many people as possible during Irma.

Companies like Verizon were proactive in preparing for the storm’s effects. Before Irma had reached Florida, Verizon was preparing to mobilize fleets of generators and mobile charging stations, helping people who lost power or had to relocate keep their phones on and running. Beyond that, they worked to strengthen their 4G network and coverage along evacuation routes, and they even added new systems in hospitals and emergency facilities. The company bolstered their infrastructure in order to provide cell phone coverage to as many people affected by the storm as they could, bringing a vital resource that may otherwise have been lost.

The GAIN coalition applauds efforts by companies like Verizon during Hurricane Irma and other major weather events. The ability to make calls, send texts, or simply read updates on how storms progress is of paramount importance for the well-being of thousands. Cell phone infrastructure is a part of our everyday lives, and we’re excited to see providers show a strong commitment towards maintaining service, even in the midst of an historic storm like Irma.

Farmers Gain From High Speed Internet

Access to the internet has improved the lives of millions of people. Not only does it connect the entire world, but it also affords a tremendous amount of opportunity for people who may otherwise not have access to higher quality education, libraries, or other resources. Businesses can better reach their customers, children and young adults can go to school and better themselves through education. Sadly, there are millions of Americans who are without access to high speed internet, putting them at a disadvantage that could be remedied with proper investments in broadband infrastructure.

Farmers in particular are hit hard by their inability to access the internet. It can affect both their ability to produce, and their ability to sell. Today’s farming technology is state of the art, using intricate systems to monitor livestock and crops. Proper access to the internet can harm the efficiency of farming technology, and it isolates farmers by cutting them off from potential business partners or customers.

There are efforts being made to bring rural broadband to every single American, and the GAIN coalition proudly supports these efforts. Internet access is quickly becoming a necessity, and ensuring that everyone is afforded the same level of access is an important step toward modernizing our infrastructure, and leveling the playing field nationwide.

$200 Million Coming For Rural Infrastructure Upgrades

In order to ensure our continued growth as a country, we need to be sure that every community is given the attention it needs. Rural communities across the country need a greater focus as the infrastructure debate heats up in Washington. Ensuring that electric grids are up to date, that transmission and distribution lines are able to bring electricity to every household, is vitally important for the success of local communities. The Department of Agriculture recently announced a number of loans that intend to do exactly that.

Nine states are in line for $200 million in loans specifically to help them update and expand their rural infrastructure. M & A Electric Power Cooperative in Polar Bluff, Missouri will receive $38.4 million to build an additional 30 miles of electric line, and more than 1,200 miles of line will be built with these new loans. These upgrades will help improve quality of life in rural communities, but will also have lasting economic benefits as towns are better able to access the internet and attract businesses.

“Investing in electric infrastructure is critical to the success of businesses, residents and farmers in our small towns and rural areas,” said Anne Hazlett, assistant for rural development to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “These loans will help provide reliable electricity to rural areas in more efficient and sustainable ways than ever before.”

The GAIN coalition is happy to see this investment in such an important part of our country’s infrastructure. Supporting upgrades and growth for our rural infrastructure, whether that be electric, broadband, or simple roads and bridges, is a necessary step to ensure that our infrastructure is rebuilt and improved across the board. We applaud these investments, and hope more like them aren’t far behind.

Improving Infrastructure Improves America

It’s easy to see how far America’s infrastructure has fallen in recent years. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded U.S infrastructure a D+ in 2016, showing very clearly that we need to take a different approach on how we maintain, improve, and expand this important facet of our society. We can’t push off addressing infrastructure issues until tomorrow – now is the perfect time, with support from both sides of the aisle and a strong national consensus that we want to see greater investment. Infrastructure is an issue that expands into every corner of our nation.

One such issue is how the current state of our road and rail systems are affecting the shipping industry, and our economy. Currently, our highways and railroads are carrying volumes far beyond what they were designed for. As we ship more and more products and commodities from coast to coast, we need to continue to update and expand the infrastructure that lets us do so. Otherwise, congestion will continue to grow, and businesses will steadily lose more and more money. In 2015 alone, the trucking industry lost $63 billion as a result of congested highways.

Additionally, the Poe Lock in Michigan is a key piece of infrastructure that needs greater attention. According to the Department of Homeland Security, if the Poe Lock failed for 6 months then 11 million jobs would be lost. The lock was originally built in the 19th century, and rebuilt in 1968. It acts as the only passageway for raw materials to the U.S. steel industry.

Investing in infrastructure isn’t just about fixing potholes and repairing bridges. Parts of our communities that were built decades ago are truly in need of attention and investment, and prioritizing projects like updating the Poe Lock, or expanding rail and road shipping systems will have rippling positive effects across the nation that will both create and sustain jobs, boost local economies, and help the American economy as a whole.

New Tappan Zee Bridge To Open Tonight

It has taken two decades of meandering through governmental regulations, four years of drilling and lifting, intense construction work, and more than 7,000 workers. But just after midnight tonight, when the calendar turns over from Friday into Saturday morning, the first drivers will cross over the new Tappan Zee bridge – the first construction project of that magnitude in the New York City region in more than 50 years.

The bridge is actually one of two – the other one is set to open next year. Running right alongside the old Tappan Zee bridge, this one stretches across one of the widest parts of the Hudson River. The new bridge is a sleek, two-span cable-stayed design that runs four lanes across the river. As the old bridge is slowly closed tonight, two lanes will open going in both directions. Eventually, there will be four lanes going either way, with each bridge taking travelers in one direction.

The construction of the new Tappan Zee bridge is a testament to infrastructure achievement. As the New York Times writes:

“More than 1,000 cylindrical piles were planted into the Hudson riverbed to create 41 pillars to hold up each span. Some 330,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured in construction, including some 6,000 precast concrete road deck panels. The main decks of both spans are held up by 192 cables stretched among eight 419-foot angled towers. The bridge will handle 140,000 cars a day.”

With money coming from Federal and State governments, the overall financing of this important project was $4 billion, making it one of the more intensive infrastructure investments in recent history. Projects like this can act as a vanguard for the action we need to take where our infrastructure is concerned. The GAIN coalition is happy to see the new Tappan Zee bridge unveiled, replacing the old bridge which opened in 1955. Updating and improving our nation’s infrastructure is vital for us to continue to thrive, and we hope to see a commitment to projects like this grow across the country.

Push to Bring Broadband to Rural America is Underway

Access to high speed internet has clear benefits for communities. Businesses are better able to promote themselves, and students have greater resources that they can tap for their studies. Yet millions of Americans in rural communities must deal with a widening digital gap that has prevented growth in those areas. Pushing to bring high speed internet to all Americans is extremely important to the prosperity and quality of life for our citizens. The FCC and Senators Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) are taking action to remedy this problem by seeking to bring access to all rural communities across the country.

The FCC recently announced that it will open an auction in 2018 to address the gaps in broadband throughout the nation. The Connect America Fund Phase II auction, also known as Auction 903, will award $198 million annually to service providers who deliver these vital broadband services to areas that face high costs and are underserved. Microsoft is expected to make an effort to win the auction, and GAIN has previously applauded their efforts to bring access to the internet to all Americans.

The FCC auction is complemented by a legislation proposal put forth by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Capito (R-WV). The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act would provide funding to bring rural broadband infrastructure to high need areas. The legislation would provide up to 50% of a broadband project’s cost, and up to 75% for projects in areas designated as high-need. The proposal has already received support from several private sector organizations who have advocated for an expansion of rural broadband access.

The GAIN coalition is thrilled to see such strong pushes to bring broadband infrastructure to people across the country who need it most. Supporting our rural communities like this will help local, small businesses to grow, while also supporting higher education in those regions. We hope to see continued efforts from both lawmakers in Washington, and private companies across the country, to help every American gain access to this important resource.

Lithuania Purchases American Natural Gas

While American natural gas production continues to grow here at home, the reaches of our energy exports have expanded around the globe. We have highlighted previously about the importance of American energy exports, particularly to European countries. Shipping more of our liquid natural gas (LNG) to Europe helps strengthen our geopolitical relationship and national security interests across the globe.

Just west of the Russian border, and only a few hundred miles from Moscow, Lithuania has become one of the first countries in the region to purchase American liquefied natural gas. In doing so, they have taken an important political stand; importing Russian gas would likely be more economically advantageous. Yet they chose to purchase American natural gas, aligning themselves with the United States.

“We want to cement our relationship with the United States in many aspects in addition to defense and security, [and the] energy trade is one of the strategic areas for cooperation,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said.

Lithuania has the option to purchase natural gas from the United States because of our growing ability to export because of increased development and an overabundance here in the states. Without proper infrastructure throughout the United States, we would be unable to bring this important energy source to our allies around the world, and they would be forced to rely on unfriendly allies.

The GAIN coalition is excited to see America sharing its abundant natural resources with our friends and allies, and we hope to see pipeline infrastructure continue to expand so we’re able to bring more and more to the international markets.