McGovern: Infrastructure bill good for Athol, district and state

  • McGOVERN Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/24/2021 12:31:46 PM
Modified: 11/24/2021 12:31:42 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Nov. 15, President Biden was finally able to sign the $1.2 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that had been held up for months due to haggling and maneuvering by members of his own party in Congress. One of those Democrats was U.S. Representative George McGovern of Worcester, who joined 214 other Democrats and 13 Republican House members in voting for the measure on Friday, Nov. 5. The bill had passed the Senate in August, with 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans voting in favor.

In an interview with the Athol Daily News on Wednesday, Nov. 17, McGovern, while he’s pleased the commonwealth will get a substantial windfall from the spending package, added he has heard the concerns of state and local officials in his district who have expressed concern that the infrastructure priorities of greater Boston could overwhelm the needs of smaller cities and rural communities. McGovern represents the 2nd Congressional District, which runs from Blackstone, on the Rhode Island border, to Northfield, which borders New Hampshire.

“I’m looking to make sure that we get our fair share,” he said. “My team and I are already working with federal and state transportation officials to make sure that the monies are distributed fairly.

“Massachusetts is going to get over $12 billion in additional assistance. That’s on top of the normal appropriation that Massachusetts gets for federal highway funding. There are a lot of projects, not only in the Athol area but in Greenfield and the Pioneer Valley and Worcester, that I expect will be funded, and we are working with them on individual projects. And the money is going to be there to do those projects.

“My team and I,” he continued, “are working to make sure that all the priority projects that we discuss with mayors and town administrators and town managers are funded. We have broken bridges on Route 2, there’s money in here for broadband expansion, for lead pipe replacement — we’re going to work very closely with our cities and towns.”

While people may normally associate “infrastructure” with roads and bridges, McGovern said rail service also stands to gain from the package.

“There’s also money in this for intercity passenger rail that I hope will make an east-west passenger rail project a reality. Sen. Markey and I both introduced legislation called the ‘brain train’ which is included in this bill, which would provide a significant amount of money for expanded rail. Lots of things that were on the drawing board, I think will become reality.”

At the time of the interview, McGovern and his team said they were unsure about funding for the many old municipal and public safety buildings in central and western Massachusetts. The following day, however, McGovern office Senior Advisor Matt Bonaccorsi contacted the Athol Daily News to affirm that such projects are on the table.

The funding, he said, is “a little more roundabout. There is not direct funding for construction or repair of municipal facilities, but there’s a lot of new grant money for energy efficiency and green buildings. Municipalities could apply for these grants to help them make major updates. And, because energy is a huge cost driver for facilities, getting these buildings energy efficient would help free up city and town resources for other things.”

Another concern of many communities in McGovern’s district is that of dam safety.

Bonaccorsi said, “There is funding for dams; $3 billion for dam repair, improvement, and removal across the country. For context, the U.S. has over 90,000 dams and, according to an AP report from 2019, nearly 1700 are considered ‘high-hazard.’ That report identified 39 of them in Massachusetts. Funds for this would come from FEMA and go to Mass DCR’s Office of Dam Safety.”

McGovern, who was at the White House for the bill-signing ceremony, said, “What we need to do now is work very closely with our cities and towns and make sure we understand what everybody’s priorities are, and then we’re going to go fight for them. Twelve billion dollars, on top of what the state’s normal federal allocation, that ought to mean a lot of projects in some of our smaller towns and medium-sized cities move up the priority list. And we want to make sure the state is clear about what the needs are outside the metropolitan Boston area.”

Speaking two days before the House approved the second part of Pres. Biden’s economic plan, the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, McGovern told the Athol Daily News he is confident the bill will make it through the Senate and reach the president’s desk for his signature by Christmas, in spite of concerns expressed by moderate Democratic senators like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema.

“The Democratic party is a diverse party,” he said. “We have liberals like me and conservatives like Joe Manchin and everything in between. If we were in Europe, we’d probably be 20 different parties. So, we have to work out our differences.

“At the end of the day, this bill may not be as big as I would like it to be, but it probably won’t be as small as Joe Manchin would like it to be. We’ll have to compromise. But it will be transformational.

“The Build Back Better bill, among other things, will help us solve the supply chain issue that, quite frankly, can lead to economic insecurity and inflation. And it’s going to create more jobs for people that pay a living wage. This is what the American people elected us to do. So, I do believe it will pass.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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