What Biden’s infrastructure bill means for La Crosse area

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law Monday.

Biden made his case for passing this bill over the summer in La Crosse, and political scientist Anthony Chergosky believes that is a good indicator Western Wisconsin will see results soon.

“Biden’s bet is that he can deliver tangible results to this region and other regions like us. And that that will serve him well politically, and his party will get rewarded for that,” said Chergosky, a UWL assistant political science professor.

Wisconsin Democrats Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Ron Kind voted in favor of the bill. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said the bill was too costly and voted against it.

Kind isn’t running for re-election, and Johnson’s seat also is up for election in 2022.

The bill is broad, including funds for roads and bridges, transit, passenger rails, electric vehicles, rural broadband, airports, water and modernizing the electric grid.

“You could have targeted it toward specific types of infrastructure. But to get everyone on board in a closely divided congress, to keep the party unified you had to give everyone a little bit of what they wanted,” Chergosky said.

In Western Wisconsin, one main focus could be broadband.

“So many of our rural communities are struggling when it comes to telehealth, when it comes to businesses that lack high speed internet,” Chergosky said.

The pandemic revealed internet access disparities; Chergosky says that makes it necessary to dedicate spending to rural communities.

It is not clear what will be implemented, or when. Funds will go toward both existing and new projects as soon as possible, said Craig Thompson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“From a roads perspective, before we look at new projects in any capacity, we’d first want to concentrate on fixing what we have,” Thompson said.

Chergosky also thinks that in addition to roads, bridges and broadband in the coulee region, much of that funding will go toward regional flood mitigation efforts.

Kind issued a statement saying that Wisconsin will receive about $5.2 billion for highways, $225 million for bridges, $100 million for broadband access, $841 million for water and addressing PFAS contamination, $592 million for public transportation and $198 million for airport infrastructure development over the next five years.