Shortly after Air Force One touched down on the Boston Logan International Airport tarmac late Monday morning, President Joe Biden declared that the federal infrastructure law his administration is implementing will be "the most significant investment" since President Dwight D. Eisenhower's plan for the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and will kick off "an infrastructure decade" from coast to coast.
The president spoke at Logan's Terminal E, where a major renovation and sustainability project is underway, after a parade of local elected officials celebrated the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure law that Biden signed in November, a law that is poised to deliver about $9.5 billion to Massachusetts over five years.
"Most of the last century we led the world by significant margin because we invested in our people and we invested in our infrastructure. We invested in ourselves, but along the way we stopped. We used to be ranked number one in the world in the investment of research and development as part of our GDP, number one in the world. Now we rank number eight. China used to be ranked number … nine, excuse me, and now they rank number two in the world," Biden said. "We risk losing our edge as a nation to China and to the rest of the world is catching up. That stops now, with investments like we're celebrating here today."
Get New England news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NECN newsletters.
Before Biden took the stage a bit after noon, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker expressed his "gratitude and appreciation for his leadership and the work done by those who crossed party lines to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure law." The governor said the law and the unanimous votes on Beacon Hill to put matching funds and state authorizations in place to take advantage of federal funds was "a wonderful example of what can happen when we work together on a shared set of goals and opportunities and put purpose behind our efforts."
As he thanked people once he took the stage, the Democratic president seemed to give his endorsement to Baker's style of politics and his emphasis on policy rather than politics or personality.
"Governor Baker, thank you for your partnership over the years. I said to the guv, I hope it doesn't hurt your reputation, guv, but, you know, when I got started, we all used to be like you and I; actually get along, care for each other, treat each other decently," the president said. "We may disagree, but just straight up. We gotta return to that kind of politics."
Logan's Terminal E, the international terminal, was chosen as the location for Biden's remarks, in part, because the upgrade work being done at the airport is supported by $50 million from the federal infrastructure law, the White House said. The project -- a roughly 320,000-square-foot addition, renovations to an existing building and the creation of four new aircraft gates -- is creating an estimated 5,900 jobs, the White House said.
"This is an investment that will preserve Boston's legacy as a gateway to and for the world," Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said. "So as we tackle climate change, cure cancer and demonstrate what it means to be a city for everyone here in Boston, infrastructure remains the foundation of all that we do. It's the surfaces we travel on, the systems that deliver our power and water, the spaces we work, live and play in. We have to start investing in and planning for the future without the false choices of growth or health, companies or workers, jobs or our planet. We can and must reach for all of that because that's what our families and communities deserve."
In addition to the billions of dollars that the federal law will steer to Massachusetts in the coming years, even more will be made available via competitive grants. Massachusetts is hoping to leverage the new federal funding opportunities with its own $11.4 billion infrastructure bond package that Baker signed into law last month.
In addition to the $11.4 billion state investments, Baker said when he signed the bond bill, the state's effort "will also advance major projects in cities and towns across the state by providing matching funds that will allow Massachusetts to compete for funding" through the federal law.
"To put it in a nutshell, the bipartisan infrastructure law basically doubles the annual level of federal funding that we had anticipated to receive over the course of the next five years. And that increased spending on existing competitive grant programs also creates opportunities to invest in new programs that were part of this legislation as well," Baker said at Logan on Monday.
The state's infrastructure bond bill included $400 million for immediate safety improvements at the T, and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton on Monday morning pointed out the differences between the nearly $700 million Terminal E project at Logan and the work being done during the monthlong shutdown of the MBTA's Orange Line.
"Let's put this investment today in perspective. Terminal E reconstruction is a $700 million dollar project that we need for the five and a half million passengers who use this terminal every year. That's an investment of $140 per passenger. Meanwhile, across town, the entire Orange Line is shut down for 30 days under reconstruction for a project that cost $198 million. That's an investment in the annual passengers on that orange line of $3.15," Moulton said. "So $140 for the international travelers at Logan and $3.15 for all the workers who are building this terminal … the fact of the matter is we need to do more."
Others who spoke at Logan before Biden included Senate President Karen Spilka, Sen. Lydia Edwards, and U.S. Reps. Jake Auchincloss, Lori Trahan, Bill Keating, Stephen Lynch, Katherine Clark and Ayanna Pressley, MassPort CEO Lisa Wieland, and U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren.
Massachusetts has received a lot of attention from the Biden administration in recent weeks. Biden visited Somerset in July to highlight the environmental and economic promise of offshore wind, Vice President Kamala Harris called the Bay State a "model" on reproductive rights protection during an August visit to Dorchester and then returned on Labor Day for a union breakfast.
Some of that attention could be thanks to the state's Congressional delegation, a group of all Democrats which Biden singled out for praise Monday.
"What a Congressional delegation, holy God. I can't do anything without checking in on the delegation, you know what I mean? It's the most powerful and most talented delegation, I think, in the country," he said.