A brief look at where that $100 billion worth of infrastructure money is going
"We have to come up with a sexier word than ‘infrastructure.'" That's what Arnold Schwarzenegger had to say about the stimulus bill's commitment to infrastructure-which he praised as thorough but criticized for being a little on the cheap side. His point, though, was that it's hard to get adequate funding when the average American doesn't really know what the word means-let alone how much it affects his or her daily life. To get up to speed, here's a breakdown of the proposal.RoadsIt's unclear where the $27.5 billion set aside for highways, roads, and collapsing bridges will go. Will it fund more lanes and new construction? Or will it help repair and redesign existing highways to reduce traffic (and therefore emissions)? Time will tell.RailEight billion dollars have been set aside for high-speed passenger rail, which could be a boon to commuters who drive long distances to work, because intercity rail will get priority. Just $1.3 billion goes to Amtrak, meanwhile, and no more than 60 percent of that can be spent on the Northeast corridor. Repairs and upgrades will be prioritized. Little expansion is considered feasible with this budget, but maybe it can help them run the trains on time.Public transportationAbout $8.4 billion has been set aside for public-transit associations, much of it for new equipment. One hundred million dollars will help local transportation agencies, many of which are plagued with rising costs and lowered operating budgets, despite ridership being at an all-time high. Unlike highways, riders don't typically end up paying the operating costs of public transit, so don't expect fare reductions anytime soon.Rural BroadbandThe $7.2 billion committed to extending broadband wireless internet to rural areas has been a hot-button issue (it's been called the "cyber bridge to nowhere"). Still, only 41 percent of rural Americans have reliable high-speed access to the web. For rural dwellers it will be a step in the right direction, helping them attain access to a basic resource that many of us take for granted.WeatherizingThe $6.2 billion in the bill for home-weatherization could make a significant impact on homeowners. It will extend the life of buildings, as well as reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 8 million metric tons annually, according to a recent report. In addition to helping the planet, it's big savings in your pocket. Government buildings and low-income housing will also get weatherization help.