MISSOULA — Senator Jon Tester says the U.S. has been living "off our parents and grandparents infrastructure too long" and it's time to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package worth as much as $1.2 trillion.
He's hoping Montanans will jump on board to convince Congress to approve the deal.
With the $16-million rebuild on the Beartracks Bridge underway in the background, Senator Tester came to Missoula to stump for the infrastructure package, the sounds of construction symbolic of the work that went into crafting the legislation.
"It will provide significant investment in Montana's roads, bridges, airports, water infrastructure," Tester told reporters. "It will also make badly-needed investments in broadband, which we found out was so critically important during the pandemic."
Tester is one of ten senators, five from each party, that developed the deal, which includes about $579-billion in new spending without using a gas tax, or other tax increase. Others joined the Big Sandy Democrat to emphasize how important that will be to not just fixing stuff, but creating well paying jobs.
Deb Poteet, owner of Poteet Construction, noted how busy roads are now as the pandemic passes.
"America's on the move. And let me tell you, just like you can see around Missoula, all the traffic, this bill is needed to keep Americans and Montanans moving safely throughout the United States and throughout Montana."
"If we talk infrastructure, it creates thousands and hundreds of jobs throughout the area," Brian Ellestad, Acting Director of the Missoula Montana Airport explained. "For the airport it's big. We're leading tourism for the state, as far as bringing people into the community."
Missoula City Councilman Jordan Hess says there hasn't been much federal investment in infrastructure projects. And he says the millions of dollars that could come from this bill would help municipalities catch up on a backlog of work.
How big of a backlog? Missoula estimates there's at least a quarter of a billion dollars worth of projects that need attention.
"That's not 'pie in the sky' wishlist infrastructure," Hess noted. "That is nuts and bolts, streets, sidewalks, utility lines. The things that make our cities function."
"This is truly a once-in-a-century investment in infrastructure in this country. It will be one of the most impactful, non-emergency bills, once it's passed, in this nation's history," said Tester.
Tester believes Senator Chuck Schumer could bring the Infrastructure Package to the floor as soon as July 19th. He's hoping that happens in order to capture at least some construction projects during this season.