Infrastructure Part II: What’s in the Pipeline?

AAs an investor-owned utility, McDonough says only a small portion of IIJA money will be available for NJAW. This will likely be provided for lead service lines due to legislation signed by the Governor last year that requires a public community water systemtime to inventory and replace lead service lines within 10 years. This legislation provides for cost recovery by investor-owned public water systems.

Overall, McDonough hopes NJAW will be a resource for municipalities that it is not already serve if the infrastructure money they receive is not enough for their water system problems.

This is the ecosystem

According to George Kimmerlefounding partner of The Kimmerle Group, the Harding Township-based architecture and planning firm, water inThe issue of infrastructure encompasses the entire ecosystem, including land use planning. Although there is a lot of talk about replacing lead service lines in the IIJA, Kimmerle points out that there are other issues that need to be taken into accountlike the quasurface water flowing into reservoirs, aquifers and wells, in addition to flooding issues.

“You have to look at the larger question of what’s happening, developmentally, across the state,” Kimmerle said. “In terms of individual cities, there are natural spaces and landscaped spaces. We to have to understand the relationship – and buffer and boundary – that must exist between the two to ensure that each is a viable ecosystem.

A recent study Kimmerle conducted with the United States in Mayors Association of 1,320 communities nationwide, revealed that mayors also understood that infrastructure funding must go to flood control. “Areas like Hoboken and Lower Manhattan need flood valves or some type of physical barriers,” Kimmerle said. “EMayors understand that controlling development in these types of areas has a direct impact on the type of flooding that occurs upstream.

Broadband

The IIJA is also providing $65 billion nationwide for Internet deployment and accessibility efforts, which New Jersey is expected to receive a minimum of $100 million. According to a White House press release, there are at least 115,468 people in the state without internet access, and 18% of the state’s population, or 1.56 million people, will be eligible to Participate in the FCC’s Affordability Connectivity Benefit (ACP) program. The CPA was originally called the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and was created in response to the need and importance of connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the ACP, low-income households can reduce their Internet or wireless costs by up to $30 per month.

Nationally, AT&T has participated in the program, and according to Joseph Divis, president of AT&T New Jersey, the state is well positioned relative to other States regarding broadband availability.

The other side of providing broadband access to those who don’t have it is the digital literacy and equity component, Divis says. “With all the work to make sure broadband is readily available and affordable, you need to ensure residents and families are able to use the technology,” says Divis. “It’s something we’re already working on with the AT&T Connected Learning Initiative.”

Through this $2 billion national AT&T program, the company is educating on the users through digital browsers; people who support and educate local individuals on new technologies.

According to Divis, AT&T has a long history of investing in New Jersey. For the three years ending in 2021, the company has invested $1.2 billion in the stat. “That’s part of the reason New Jersey is well positioned to embark on the journey to universal broadband,” he said.

Divis sees public/private partnerships as a way to put federal funds to good use, as telecommunications companies such as AT&T has a long history of investing and capitalizing on providing robust broadband connectivity.

Workforce infrastructure

At Matrix New World Engineering, the national and global engineering firm headquartered in New Jersey in Florham Park, Andy RaichlePE, vice president, says the company expects to be extremely busy as IIJA money begins to roll in, but he is concerned about the shortage of engineers and construction workers on the ground.

He explains the the world of architecture and engineering was busy and experiencing a labor crisis before the federal government invoice, and attributes the labor shortage to the fact that the country has not invested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education for a long time. “For 30 years or more, STEM [education] did not follow [workforce] request. So when you get hit with a big chunk of work like this [IIJA money]the problem becomes acute, Raichle said.

Even with the shortage, he said, IIJA funds mmust be take advantage of. “We have deferred this investment for a lifetime,” Raichle said. “We can’t wait any longer. We will have to wrestle with the problem. However, if anyone can do it, this country can.

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