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Editorial: The infrastructure bill will boost our region

The passage by the House of Representatives of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill will be a game changer for this region. As a result, New York State will receive hundreds of billions in the coming years, with tens of millions to be spent on Long Island.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 228-206. Six so-called progressives in the House voted no and 13 Republicans voted yes. The bill passed in the Senate over the summer by a vote of 69-30.

The bill represents a rare moment of bipartisan agreement that the country’s infrastructure is a mess and, with decaying bridges, tunnels, airports and roadways, reinforces the widely held belief that America is a country in decline whose leaders can’t agree on anything.

But lawmakers did manage to agree on this, and that’s a very good thing for the region and the country.

While specific projects that directly benefit the North Fork have yet to be determined, the bill will bring major new investments to the Northeast Corridor transportation system, which will have a spillover effect on Long Island. The measure will also fund billions in water quality projects that will have a direct impact on our region. 

In Suffolk County, money will go toward improving our airports, including Long Island MacArthur in Islip, which many East End residents prefer, Francis. S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton and airports in East Hampton and Brookhaven. According to a Newsday story, the Fishers Island airstrip will also receive several hundred thousand dollars for improvements.

Much-needed electric vehicle charging stations across the state will be greatly increased, and this will have a real impact on buyers who have considered switching to electric vehicles but are concerned about the lack of stations.

Those of us who visit family or friends in Manhattan, New Jersey or elsewhere off Long Island know firsthand the poor condition of our roadways. The Newsday story said New York will receive nearly $12 billion for highway repairs. The story also cited a 2019 study that said 46% of the surfaces of state highways were rated fair or poor.

We must invest in our future, particularly as the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt. Witness the impact of recent storms on flooded subways, roadways and tunnels and it’s clear the situation is critical right now. It will be even more dire if infrastructure changes are not made.

We applaud Congress for the vote. Working together on problems that affect all of us is what we should expect from our elected representatives. We were surprised that 1st District Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Mastic), who is running for governor of a state that will reap enormous benefits from the bill, voted no. 

He sent us this statement explaining why:

“Anyone trying to sell this as some standalone, bipartisan, paid-for bill that had nothing to do with the enormous, partisan reconciliation tax and spend bill is not being honest. This was all linked and shady deals had to be cut behind the scenes where moderate Democrats agreed to help pass the larger bill later this month …

“It’s important to also point out that this bill still does nothing to address the highway trust fund’s solvency issues, and unlike the 2015 FAST Act, this bill is not paid for and will further balloon our country’s already massive deficit. This is yet another wasted opportunity to get a truly great bipartisan victory over the finish line.”

It is reasonable to be concerned about the national debt, but it’s late in the game for this and the concerns always seem to fall along party lines. When your party is in power, massive debt is fine; when the other party gets in, it’s a horror. 

While we rebuild our country — or at least try to, with bipartisan support— perhaps we could also begin to deal with the massive debt that keeps mounting and solve that in a bipartisan way as well.