California, Texas and New York will likely cash in big on the trillion-dollar infrastructure package if the bill makes its way to President Joe Biden’s desk.
But far less populous states — such as Montana and Alaska — will get the most money per capita.
The administration said Californians should plan for at least $44.56 billion in infrastructure funds, the biggest sum for any state, with highways and public transit alone comprising about $34.8 billion of that total.
Texas came in at No. 2 with an estimated allocation of $35.44 billion, between $26.9 billion in estimated highway funds and $3.3 billion in estimated public transit funds. New York, in third, is projected to receive $26.92 billion.
CNBC’s analysis shows that Vermont, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska lead when it comes to estimated per capita infrastructure spending, with at least $3,500 per resident. California’s estimated per capita allocation is less than $1,250 per resident.
The White House, hoping to make good on Biden’s campaign promises ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, has billed the plan as a generational investment. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the $1 trillion infrastructure bill earlier this month in an effort to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges and fund new climate resilience and broadband initiatives. The House aims to pass the bill by October.
The administration touts that the infrastructure plan “will grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good jobs” and improve a variety of other metrics.
It’s important to note that the White House estimates are summaries based on the allocation of funds in prior legislation. The current piece of legislation could change the formulas that determine which factors decide how much money a state or city receives.
Current White House estimates also leave out competitive grant programs for specific, economically significant one-time projects. Localities can often use those grants to help finance an isolated project if the federal government determines that a particular bridge or tunnel has outsized economic impact on a region.
Any improvements are likely to happen at the local level, since states and municipalities are the stewards of some 90% of non-defense public infrastructure assets and usually bear 75% of their cost of upkeep, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank.
Washington typically funds major surface infrastructure initiatives through the Transportation Department, which issues grants to states. Those grants can come from several funds, including the Highway Trust Fund, which generates a significant amount of its revenues from gasoline taxes.
The calculations that determine how much money one state receives relative to another is set by statute and can vary slightly over time as lawmakers update spending models. Some factors, though, remain consistent, said Vikram Rai, head of Citi’s municipal bonds strategy.
“The Department of Transportation is given an allocation and they decide how to allocate to various states and localities,” Rai said. The number of factors that decide the size of a grant are many, but some factors are straightforward.
Rai explained that a state’s population usually weighs heavily on how much it receives as a proportion of total funding. The thinking there is clear: The more people in a state, the more wear and tear on that state’s roads, bridges and other transportation surfaces.
That’s why, in part, it’s not necessarily surprising to see New York, Texas and California, as three of the country’s most populated states, atop the funding list.
Other factors that go into determining grant size can be a bit more complicated.
Grants may be larger or smaller based on how many big cities a given state has. Or, if the grant is marked for urban areas, the size is determined by how many people live in a particular city.
In the 2015 FAST Act, an Obama-era transportation bill, urban-area grants were in part determined based on whether the city had more or less than 200,000 residents.
Those grants were then further magnified or shrunk based on other factors: The presence of a commuter rail, for example, or how many miles the city’s buses traveled in a particular day.
Those factors are clear in the current White House calculations.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are expected to receive $15.2 billion for public transportation based on formula funding. That’s 24% of the total allocated to public transportation, though those states make up about 10% of the U.S. population, suggesting that the administration thinks the vast public transit infrastructure in those three states merits additional attention.
On the other hand, Louisiana, which is contending with potentially billions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Ida, is expected to nab $1.01 billion for bridge replacement and repairs, seventh among all states and about 3.8% of the total dedicated to bridges.
The American Society of Civil Engineers said in a recent report that Louisiana, which relies heavily on bridges to transverse much of its low-lying countryside, is ranked fourth in the nation for total bridge area but second in the number of structurally deficient bridges based on square footage.
The Federal Transit Administration, a division of the Transportation Department that oversees financial assistance to local public transit systems, has published flow charts that show how the FAST Act’s formulas determined grant size.
Correction: This story was updated to reflect correct figures for Louisiana’s rank and estimated bridge allocation.