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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The funding proposals in the big infrastructure legislation being hashed out in Congress have the potential to transform the way people and goods move about the country — while also reducing their carbon footprint and addressing inequities in transportation.

The big picture: More people would be driving electric cars, for example, and lower-income people would have better access to public transit to get to affordable housing, work and school.

  • High-speed trains could well become the preferred way to travel between certain metro areas, rather than flying, which is harmful to the environment.
  • Cleaner hydrogen trucks could also get a boost from more R&D funding. 

Between the lines: People who’ve been on the fence about purchasing an electric vehicle could be persuaded to buy one for two reasons:

  • Bigger tax credits — up to $12,500 per vehicle — would be more widely available, making EVs more affordable.
  • Range anxiety — the fear of being stranded with a dead battery — would be less of a worry because $13.5 billion would be spent on EV infrastructure, including more public charging stations.

The intrigue: Not everyone can afford a car — or a home — so House Democrats are proposing an innovative program that would link public transit and affordable housing.

  • A joint program between the Federal Transit Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development would provide $10 billion in grants to support struggling communities.
  • If approved, lower-income people would have better access to jobs, health care and education.
  • Their neighborhoods could be enhanced, with $4 billion proposed to remove highways that divided communities.

What we're watching: More people could be riding the train too, if Congress goes ahead with a big increase in government funding for rail, which is seen as a more efficient and sustainable mode of transportation.

  • The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $66 billion for Amtrak and other rail projects.
  • Through budget reconciliation, House Democrats want to add $10 billion more for high-speed rail that would connect to local and regional transportation networks.

Go deeper

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Oct 22, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

What the Midwest Regional Rail Plan could mean for Des Moines travel

Image: Federal Railroad Administration

A newly released plan from the Federal Railroad Administration would allow Des Moines residents to travel via train to Chicago or Omaha, Nebraska.

Why it matters: Traveling from Des Moines to other states without a car isn't easy.

  • This dream proposal by the federal transportation agency helps take us a step closer to better commutes.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.