President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on Monday. Among other things, a White House fact sheet on the bill mentions public transit, rail transportation, roads and bridges, high-speed Internet, water, electric vehicle chargers, elimination of “legacy” pollution as items the bill’s funding will address.
On the local level, Pierre city communications manager Brooke Bohnenkamp wrote in a Thursday email that the city doesn’t yet have much insight into what the bill will provide.
“There’s never a shortage of infrastructure needs at the local level whether they are big projects or maintenance items,” Bohnenkamp wrote. “Provided there’s a workforce, either seasonal or contracted to get the job done, there’s any number of places we can use infrastructure funding. Without having the specific guidance on the federal bill, we’d likely take a hard look at our network of sanitary sewer lines, as well as street improvements.”
COO Jim Protexter of the Pierre Economic Development Corporation told the Capital Journal that electrical infrastructure and broadband Internet access are two of the needs he foresees for Pierre in the coming years.
“South Dakota ranks 35th in the country as far as average download speed, so to be able to promote business and education and all types of industry, we certainly don’t want to be 35th or last,” Protexter said. “It’s extremely important for population expansion and for folks to relocate to have those services on par with anywhere else.”
Protexter added that the expanding production of electric cars will bring with it demand for charging stations and power.
“That’s fine and good, but fact is by the end of this decade, 40 percent of all new vehicles will be electric, and if you can imagine all the charging that is required in a community when you have more and more and more electric vehicles, we just want to make sure that we have an electrical infrastructure that can support the significantly higher demand,” Protexter said.
CEO Sara Rankin of the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce told the Capital Journal that, in addition to Protexter’s suggestions, she sees the money headed toward community safety programs as vital.
“There is $11 billion going to safety and the Safe Streets For All program which is aimed at helping our local communities reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians,” Rankin said. “Not only as a chamber of commerce but as our visitor’s bureau, we of course find that very important.”
Rankin also said transportation-related expenses, such as public transit, should be given a look.
“Obviously River Cities (Public) Transit is critical to both the Pierre and Fort Pierre communities, so any help they can get is positive on our end,” Rankin said. “And of course, airports, the money they’re going to be getting for infrastructure improvements. We saw record enplanement numbers this year during hunting season.”
Pierre Regional Airport had 2,374 enplanements throughout the month of October, representing a 665-passenger increase from September and the only month of 2021 thus far in which 2,000 or more passengers enplaned.
Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson said she looks forward to learning more about the funding the bill could offer.
“I don’t think that there is any end to the needs for infrastructure improvements in a town as old as Fort Pierre,” Hanson said. “Definitely there is need in an aging sewer system, there is need in the electrical area as well as drinking water.... We also know that our sidewalk system is not in good shape. The City of Fort Pierre is not very walkable because the sidewalks are either nonexistent or they’re not in great shape or they don’t last more than a block.”