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News / Politics

Biden offers 17 billion reasons for Pennsylvanians to support him this fall

By Jonathan D. Salant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Published: May 13, 2024, 8:39am

WASHINGTON — A high-ranking White House aide is traveling to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to highlight a massive infusion of federal dollars as President Joe Biden ramps up his pitch to voters that he deserves another four years in office.

The top official is expected to trumpet the nearly $17 billion Pennsylvania has received so far during the Biden administration for infrastructure, clean energy and other projects — successes that officials are emphasizing in advance of Election Day. It’s latest effort by the White House to tout its accomplishments during a presidential race that polls show is very tight both in Pennsylvania and nationally.

Tom Perez, senior adviser to the president and director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, is to highlight federal funding going to Western Pennsylvania to build affordable housing and reconnect communities on his trip, the White House said. In March, the federal government provided $2 million to connect the East Liberty Transit Station with the East Liberty business district and Bakery Square, now cut off from the station by a busway.

Mr. Perez is one of at least 10 Cabinet secretaries and senior officials fanning out across the U.S. this week to highlight the president’s big four bills as Mr. Biden runs for re-election this fall: the bipartisan infrastructure law, the coronavirus stimulus law, the climate change and health care law, and the law providing subsidies for companies to build computer chip factories and other manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

The choice of this week was no accident; it’s officially Infrastructure Week for the American Society of Civil Engineers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National League of Cities, and other organizations that get together once a year to push for more public works spending. Former President Donald Trump talked about having an infrastructure week so often that it became a running joke as each effort to make good on his campaign promise of $1 billion in aid foundered amid scandals and political squabbling. In the end, the only proposal his administration advanced would have slashed federal funding for roads and bridges and replaced it with state and private money.

“Infrastructure Week may have been a punchline but no more,” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Natalie Quillian said on a conference call with reporters.

Pennsylvania, the nation’s most populous battleground state, has received $16.7 billion from federal infrastructure legislation, which also attracted $3.8 billion in the private sector investment, according to White House figures released Monday.

The Western Pennsylvania projects included:

  • $42 million to help Pittsburgh replace every lead water line by 2026. Vice President Kamala Harris applauded the city’s progress toward that goal on a visit in February.
  • $925 million for a regional hub in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky to produce clean hydrogen.
  • $149 million for improvements to Interstate 376 (Parkway East) through Pittsburgh — known as the bathtub because it floods during heavy rains — nearby highways and the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.
  • $143 million for track and signal improvements to allow a second round-trip train between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and $500,000 to study the feasibility of carrying passengers further west to Chicago.
  • $98.5 million to fund a statewide network of electric vehicle chargers.
  • $29 million for a new terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport, expected to be completed in 2025.