Ripon Advance: Gardner, Daines bill would drive synchronized road, broadband construction

U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Steve Daines (R-MT) on Feb. 6 introduced the bipartisan Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act, S. 2381, legislation that would pave a smoother way for broadband infrastructure installation on federal lands and during federal transportation projects.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) joined Gardner and Daines as original cosponsors of the bill.

“This bill would make federal construction projects more efficient by encouraging simultaneous construction of transportation and broadband infrastructure,” said Sen. Gardner.

If enacted, S. 2381 would direct the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to require that broadband conduits be installed as part of certain highway construction projects, among other purposes, according to the text of the bill.

The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that simply digging up roads and replacing them represents 90 percent of broadband deployment costs. Installing broadband conduits during road construction or repair projects would save money and help ease traffic woes, according to Gardner’s office.

Sens. Gardner and Daines spoke to the legislation’s benefits for economic growth, particularly in rural communities.

“Access to broadband is access to the modern economy,” Gardner said. “Continued rural economic development depends on expanded broadband internet access, and I’m proud to support this effort to ensure that expansion happens.”

“Rural Montanans need access to high-speed Internet to support local jobs and compete in the 21st century economy,” said Daines. “We cannot let government regulations stand in the way of the 41 percent of rural Montanans who still lack access to high-speed broadband.”

Additionally, S. 2381 would cut government red tape, Gardner’s office said, and streamline the siting process for wireless infrastructure on federal lands.

S. 2381 has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.