Infrastructure bill invests big in Amtrak, creates post of tourism officer

Friday night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.2 trillion bill for infrastructure with a 228-206 vote.
The legislation was passed by nineteen members of Congress across all political lines. It is designed to not only overhaul U.S. infrastructure from roads and bridges to rail and airports, but also creates the role of chief travel and tourist officer.

The bill includes significant investments in infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging stations, as well as other environmentally-focused moves.

This bill, worth $1.2 trillion, is the largest in public works investments since President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Interstate Highway System. It represents $550 billion of new spending.

After months of debate, the Senate passed a version of the bill that was separated by the Congressional Black Caucus. It included the vote on infrastructure and the $1.85 million Build Back Better social spending bill. After the Senate had approved a draft of the bill in August, President Joe Biden will likely sign it into law on Nov. 8.

The bill will pump $25 billion into airports in order to reduce congestion, emissions, and repair backlogs.

New job: Chief travel and tourism officer

As part of the Department of Transportation, this bill will create a chief travel and tourism officer.

Roger Dow, CEO of U.S. Travel Association, stated in a statement that the Infrastructure and Jobs Act passed. "This bill will have profound impacts on how people travel for many decades to come." We can overcome the current pandemic by making significant investments in our transportation infrastructure. This will allow us to create modern, efficient and stronger systems that can support a rebound in travel demand. This act will increase the future of mobility by providing historic levels of investment in travel infrastructure, including airports, railways and highways as well as electric vehicle charging stations.

He said that the new chief travel and tourism officer "will be crucial for rebuilding our industry, and preparing to receive back visitors from all over the world."

Amtrak needs a huge investment

Amtrak will also receive $66 billion for track repair and expansion. This is Amtrak's largest investment in passenger train since its creation.

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn spoke out about the Northeast Corridor improvement project and mentioned the possibility of "bringing more passengers rail across the country". He stressed the administration's determination to "move quickly to advance these project."

Flynn spoke to Axios, on HBO on Saturday and called the funding "absolutely transformative" and stated that it would lead the railroad's largest ever expansion. Flynn mentioned new routes from Columbus, Ohio to Los Angeles to Las Vegas; Phoenix and Tucson to Tucson; as well as service into Nashville.

Expansion of infrastructure for electric cars

Infrastructure bill also allocates $7.5 billion for expanding the country's electric vehicle charging network. According to the Department of Energy, the United States currently supports 122,000 charging stations at 48,000 stations across the country.

This funding will be used by the Biden administration to increase that network to 500,000 charging stations by 2030. This aspect of the bill was described by the White House as a "critical component" of its plan to accelerate adoption of EVs in order to address climate change.

The administration has included significant rebates for EV purchase in the companion bill Build Back Better. This could encourage car rental companies to convert their fleets. These rebates will only kick in if Congress passes the companion legislation.

However, not all parties were supportive of the bill. While Chip Rogers, CEO of American Hotel & Lodging Association, acknowledged the importance of U.S. travel infrastructure for global competitiveness, he was not happy with the way the bill would finance elements.

Because it facilitates commerce, travel and American competitiveness, reliable and modern infrastructure is essential to the hotel industry. Rogers stated that while this package could go a long distance in achieving these ends, it comes at a high cost. The bill would end the Employee Retention Credit Tax Credit two months earlier. This program is important for many hotels and employees, especially considering the lingering Covid-19 concerns as well as the negative economic impact that they have on hotels.

"While we support infrastructure investment, small businesses and struggling hotel workers should not have to pay that price. AHLA will continue to advocate for programs that help hoteliers get through this pandemic.

On Nov. 6, President Biden focused his remarks on the larger picture, wherein infrastructure improvements would not just rebuild U.S. systems and frameworks but also create jobs. Biden also remained true to his message that the final success of the infrastructure bill would depend on the passage in mid November of the $1.85 trillion Build Back Better social expenditure plan. This remains a question.

He predicted that based on the passage, people would look back at this as the moment when America won the economic competition of the 21st Century.

Source: Business Travel News