Section of the Cross Bronx Expressway/Emily Nadal

What Biden’s infrastructure plan could mean for the Bronx

President Joe Biden released a $2 trillion infrastructure bill on April 1, 2021 which, if passed, would significantly address some of the country’s major transportation and quality of life challenges while creating jobs and boosting the economy.  The bill does not explicitly state projects for funding, but the nature of this spending suggests the Bronx could be a big beneficiary of these new funds.  Here are some likely areas for upgrades once the bill is approved and projects are identified.

What is the financial breakdown of the plan?

The total cost for the proposal is $2 trillion dollars. This amount is divided into four categories. 

The first is transportation, where Biden plans to invest $621 billion. This includes money for repairing roads and highways, improving airports and upgrading public transportation. 

Another $650 billion will be for quality of life projects. This includes improving physical structures like homes and schools as well as outfitting the country with high speed broadband. 

The next category allocates $400 billion to caregivers for the elderly and people with disabilities. Biden hopes to expand these services under Medicaid as well as increase pay for workers in the field. 

Lastly, $300 billion would go toward research, development and manufacturing. Part of this money will be spent on investing in research into new technology that is climate and environmentally conscious as well as funds for producing products right here in the country rather than outsourcing. 

What are some transportation projects the Bronx could benefit from?

Transportation is a big part of Biden’s infrastructure plan and within that is a goal to modernize 20,000 miles of highway. The Bronx holds dozens of highway miles and the one that could use the biggest face lift is probably the Cross Bronx, with good reason. The highway’s poor design split the borough in two by running directly through it. It also left a third of the expressways open and exposed amongst the city’s streets. The Cross Bronx is a major pollutant in the borough and is the culprit behind a lot of diseases and chronic illness. But there are people working to minimize that, and this infrastructure bill could aid their efforts. 

Public transportation is another key component of this portion of money. Roughly $85 billion will be set aside for projects that would modernize the country’s networks of public transport. In New York City, public transportation reigns supreme and is a lifeline for Bronx residents. But the MTA is notoriously in disarray. There are initiatives seeking to change that. One project in the works is the MTA’s redesign of the Bronx’s bus system which includes increasing the fleet during high usage times and making rerouting certain bus lines to be more accessible. 

Infrastructure capital could aid more of MTA’s projects, like their plans to add four metro-north stations to some areas of the Bronx. They will be located in Hunts Point, Co-op City, Morris Park and Parckchester. These additions will make it easier to commute in the South and East Bronx as well as open up job opportunities to residents outside of the five boroughs. 

Together with improving existing systems of public transportation, there are ideas circulating for creating new ones that infrastructure cash could push through. The Regional Plan Association built a proposal for a Triboro Rail Line. The 24-mile route would run from Co-op city in the Bronx to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn on already existing rail lines. 

Within the borough, getting from one side of the Bronx to the other is difficult. Another visionary project Welcome2TheBronx proposed is a light rail that would connect upper Manhattan, east and west Bronx. 

Also included in the transportation section is $20 billion toward improving road safety. Two Bronx streets (East 149th Street and Morris Avenue and East 161st and Morris Avenue) make the list for New York City’s most dangerous streets for cyclists. While bike share programs have increased the Bronx, so have the number of cyclist accidents and fatalities. There are almost no protected bike lanes in the Bronx. The infrastructure bill could change that. 

How could quality of life at home improve in the Bronx with the infrastructure bill?

One thing the pandemic taught us was just how disconnected the Bronx is. Not having reliable access to the internet creates a huge disparity when it comes to accessing information. The Bronx has the lowest broadband connection in the city. Under Biden’s infrastructure plan, $100 billion is earmarked to expand high-speed broadband across the nation. 

Another $100 billion dollars will be put toward fixing up many of the country’s thousands of public schools. For 222,743 Bronxites who attend public schools, they can potentially see major improvements in their school buildings, including modernization of the structures and improved ventilation systems. 

On the same note, childcare facilities are also included in the quality of life plan. Roughly $25 billion dollars would go toward providing more accessible childcare options in high need areas. The bill would do this a number of different ways including upgrading childcare facilities to accommodate more children and providing a tax credit to employers for building childcare options at places of work. The Bronx has over 3,000 daycare and childcare facilities and there’s a huge need in the borough for the cost to be affordable. Over 20,000 children in the Bronx have their care subsidized through government programs.

The Bronx has over half a million units of public housing and under Biden’s infrastructure bill, they could see some change as well. The proposal seeks $40 billion dollars for improving public housing. The New York CIty Housing Authority has a multi-billion dollar backlog of work that needs to be done and could benefit from federal funding to alleviate some of it. 

The biggest chunk of the quality of life portion of the bill ($213 billion dollars) would be for affordable housing. Half a million of these future homes would be for low and middle-income people. This is important for the Bronx, as more than half its residents are considered “rent-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. 

What’s the deal with the caregiver assistance funding?

An interesting addition to the proposed bill is allocation of $400 billion dollars to caregivers for the eldery or disabled.  Caregiving is a traditionally underpaid but highly needed job.  The new infrastructure bill would increase wages for caregivers like home health aides and also make it easier for those on Medicaid to receive services.  The Bronx is home to both hundreds of caregivers and thousands of people who utilize their services. 

Where will the money for the bill come from?

To fund this plan, Biden wants to increase taxes for corporations to 28%. This may sound like a lot but it’s actually bringing it back to the same percentage it was before the Trump administration’s 2017 tax law change. 

What’s next?

The bill will now have to pass in the Congress, but it won’t be easy to get everyone on board. Biden’s plan stands out because he broadens the scope of what infrastructure means with the inclusion of initiatives that tackle child care and caregiver assistance, for example. Biden says he is open to negotiations and there’s hope that the bill could pass by late summer.