BOSTON — Cities and towns are being urged by the state’s building industry to tap into of a windfall of federal grants through the new jobs and infrastructure law to repair aging roadways and upgrade water and sewage systems.

Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Unions, said the tranche of available federal funding is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve our nation’s roads, bridges, and other aging infrastructure.” He is urging local governments to take advantage of the competitive grants.

“These historic investments will improve each community’s quality of life and create life-changing careers for thousands of workers and their families,” Callahan said.

The grant money is offered through the $1 trillion federal infrastructure and jobs law, which was signed by President Joe Biden in November.

Massachusetts stands to receive more than $9.5 billion from the spending bill over the next five years, including at least $4.2 billion for roadway upgrades and $1.1 billion for bridge repairs, according to the Biden administration.

But the new federal law also provides about $2.5 billion in competitive grants for local governments to fix potholes and crumbling bridges, upgrade water and sewer systems, and other infrastructure needs.

Gov. Charlie Baker is also chasing after the federal infrastructure funds offered under the new law. He has filed a $9.7 billion bond bill that calls for leveraging state borrowing to go after billions of dollars in competitive federal grants.

If approved by the Legislature, the plan would devote $5.4 billion in highway funds for road and bridge upgrades over the next five years, $2.2 billion for the MBTA and $1.4 billion on improvements to water and sewer systems.

Other funding will be devoted to fixing combined sewer outfalls and culverts, airports, and incentives to switch to electric vehicles.

Another $110 billion will be available to Massachusetts and other states for fixing bridges through a new competitive federal grant program, Baker said.

The state is also diverting money from a $4 billion plan to spend American Rescue Plan Act funds and surplus revenue on water, sewer and other environmental infrastructure.

Data provided by the Biden administration shows only about 25% of Massachusetts’ 5,229 bridges are in good condition. About 9% are considered structurally deficient.

Besides structurally deficient bridges, many of the state’s roadways are in major disrepair, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.

The Biden administration’s Infrastructure Report Card gave the state a grade of C-, saying there are at least 1,194 miles of highway in poor condition.

John Pourbaix, executive director of Construction Industries of Massachusetts, has called on state leaders to pursue an “aggressive” bridge repair program and begin channeling federal funds immediately into fixing structurally deficient ones.

“Every community across the commonwealth has bridges in need of repair and/or reconstruction,” Pourbaix wrote in a recent letter to officials. “Addressing a handful of bridges across the state in piecemeal fashion will not get us out of the federal penalty nor will it ensure the safety of the public. Our bridges must be a priority.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@northofboston.com.

Trending Video

Recommended for you