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New federal infrastructure package to positively impact Utah's roads, Navajo Nation's water

Posted at 8:13 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 23:25:25-05

SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill into law Monday.

The funds will go to improve roads, bridges, public transit, water and wastewater.

“To have that consistent funding source, it's an important step to make sure that we can deliver the program that we have here,” said John Gleason with the Utah Department of Transportation.

Gleason said state funding typically goes toward the big construction and expansion projects you see on highways and interstates.

“The federal funds, we use those for the preservation and rehabilitation projects that help us maintain our roads,” he said.

He said it’s too early to know what specific projects will be funded by the infrastructure bill funds, but said it’s “great news” for Utah roads.

“That means we can maintain our roads and keep them in good shape so that people can drive them safely,” Gleason said.

For the Navajo Nation, which includes a portion of southeastern Utah, the bill will help in various ways. President Jonathan Nez was in the nation’s capital for the signing.

“I think it’s about time Indian Country has a seat at the table, and that was evident today,” he said.

He said one of the biggest wins is the funding for running water and sanitation projects. Forty percent of Navajo people don’t have running water. Nez said they’ve seen a lot of “broken promises” from the government, but called Monday a “historic day.”

“I think it’s a turning point. Of course, there are a lot more needs in Indian Country than is allocated, but this is a start,” he said.

The bill also authorizes two billion dollars for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which focuses on improving internet access to rural areas and tribal communities.