Murkowski addresses infrastructure package as it awaits president’s signature

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 11:47 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that passed the U.S. House last week and is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.

All three of Alaska’s congressional delegation supported the bill; Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, was one of 13 Republicans in the House that voted in favor of the bill last week. In August, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Murkowski helped pass the bill through the U.S. Senate.

Murkowski said she spoke on the phone with Young early on about the legislation and they agreed there were things they didn’t like, but felt it was important for Alaska. Some in the GOP have been critical of the 13 House Republicans who voted in support of the infrastructure bill.

“There’s been some comments that this infrastructure bill is not something a Republican should support because it allows President Biden a win. It is a win for Alaska when we can upgrade our infrastructure,” Murkowski said during her news conference Wednesday. “Last I checked, when you get out on that road, they don’t check to see if you’re a Republican or Democrat driving on that road.”

When the infrastructure package is signed by the president, it will send billions of dollars to projects in Alaska, and Murkowski touted three areas of the bill that will impact Alaskans, including ferries, water and broadband.

“For the first time ever, federal highway aide funds can be used on operation and repair of our Alaskan Marine Highway,” Murkowski said.

The Alaska Marine Highway System is set to receive $1 billion because of a program that establishes an essential ferry service for rural communities. There will also get $250 million for a low-emitting ferry pilot program since Alaska has the most Marine Highway System miles.

The bill will also send billions for water and wastewater projects including $3.5 billion for Indian Health Services sanitation facilities, $10 billion available for small and disadvantaged communities dealing with polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, and $180 million over five years through the Clean Water State Revolving fund and Drinking Water State Revolving fund.

“For us in Alaska, we’ve talked about getting rid of the honey bucket since Tony Knowles was governor. That was a long time ago, and we’re still talking about it, and we still have so much further to go,” Murkowski said.

The senior senator added $1.5 billion is headed to Alaska for broadband, part of the larger funding for broadband across the country. The permitting timeline for projects under this infrastructure bill will be sped up from four years to 2 1/2 years, according to Murkowski, because of the FAST-41 permitting which reduces permitting timelines.

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