Scenic America is thrilled to announce that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), passed by Congress on Friday, November 5, and signed into law by President Joe Biden on Monday, November 15, includes provisions supporting two of our key policy goals: utility undergrounding and flexible program funding for gateway communities adjacent to national parks and other public lands.
Included in the $1 trillion investment package are measures designed to support communities to bury their utilities underground, creating safer and more resilient power grids and enhancing the scenic qualities of the areas that invest in this critical area. While the benefits of undergrounding are widely recognized, the perceived costs create significant barriers. Federal support will make undergrounding more accessible. The final bill includes three key provisions to encourage undergrounding programs:
The bill gives access for undergrounding to the National Highway Performance Program, representing a $31.6 billion investment each year.
The bill includes a new $5 billion program to prevent outages and enhance the resilience of the electric grid, which includes undergrounding as an eligible expense.
The bill also amends the Stafford Act to allow undergrounding of wires as part of Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency funds.
Also included in the legislation is $300 million per year in support for gateway communities through the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP). The bill gives these communities—which provide services and amenities to visitors and support hospitality industry jobs—more flexibility to use FLAP funds for landscaping, historical markers, and removal of visual blight. It also encourages the use of native trees and plants.
Scenic America would like to thank President Biden and Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Sam Graves (R-MO) for recognizing the important role that these issues play in creating jobs and economic vitality and in preserving and enhancing the scenic beauty and visual character of our nation.