Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief

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FILE - In this April 16, 2020, file photo work continues on a bridge on the Interstate Highway 75 project in Troy, Mich. Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, President Joe Biden and lawmakers are laying the groundwork for another of his top legislative priorities a long-sought boost to the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could meet GOP resistance to a hefty price tag. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

WASHINGTON – Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, President Joe Biden and lawmakers are laying the groundwork for another top legislative priority — a long-sought boost to the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could run into Republican resistance to a hefty price tag.

Biden and his team have begun discussions on the possible outlines of an infrastructure package with members of Congress, particularly mindful that Texas' recent struggles with power outages and water shortages after a brutal winter storm present an opportunity for agreement on sustained spending on infrastructure.

Gina McCarthy, Biden’s national climate adviser, told The Associated Press that the deadly winter storm in Texas should be a “wake-up call” for the need for energy systems and other infrastructure that are more reliable and resilient.

“The infrastructure is not built to withstand these extreme weather conditions,” said Liz Sherwood-Randall, a homeland security aide to the president. “We know that we can’t just react to extreme weather events. We need to plan for them and prepare for them.”

A White House proposal could come out in March.

“Now is the time to be aggressive,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former South Bend, Indiana, mayor who knows potholes.

At a conference with state and local highway officials Thursday, he referred to the often-promised, never-achieved mega-initiative on roads, bridges and the like from the Trump administration.

“I know you are among those who are working and waiting most patiently, or maybe impatiently, for the moment when Infrastructure Week will no longer be a kind of Groundhog’s Day promise — but actually be something that delivers generational investments,” he said.