A former state lawmaker from Franklin County on growing up in an infrastructure-starved town, and why Biden’s new infrastructure act makes a difference.
[Editor’s Note: Bobbie Richardson is a former state lawmaker and public school educator from Franklin County who chairs the NC Democratic Party.]
Growing up in rural Franklin County, it was common to drive on an unpaved, dirt road.
My pastor used to joke to visitors that he needed to wash their cars after they came to church. I remember taking the school bus each morning on bumpy roads, scattered with holes that would fill with mud when it rained. There were many days where we would get stuck on the way to school.
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Driving around my family’s farm, my dad’s truck would rattle and bounce through the dirt and gravel roads. Even some roads that were paved had not been redone in decades, leaving dozens of patches and potholes that make it far too easy to hydroplane.
That’s why to my family and families in rural communities like the one where I grew up, when President Biden signed the infrastructure package into law in November, it meant a lot more than just repairing roads and bridges.
It’s about making it easier and safer to get to work, school, and the doctor. It’s about making sure the mailman can deliver your medicine, correspondence from friends and family, and other essentials. It’s about making sure delivery trucks can provide the resources that local businesses need.
To us, infrastructure means opportunity.
Today, I still live in Franklin County. One of the many challenges I face is unreliable internet. There are hundreds of thousands of households across North Carolina, especially in rural areas, that lack access to high-speed internet.
This isn’t a new issue. For decades, infrastructure in North Carolina has suffered from a systemic lack of investment, disproportionately hurting rural communities.
President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal will help get our local economies back on the move and people back to work. It will add millions of good paying American jobs by improving the roads, bridges, water systems and high-speed internet that our country and state need, spur economic growth, and strengthen American competitiveness.
Democrats delivered a historic investment in our economic future, yet all three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate stood against the bipartisan legislation. Ted Budd, Pat McCrory and Mark Walker’s opposition to these critical investments is disqualifying to families like mine whose lives will be improved because of the desperately-needed investments included in this legislation.
North Carolina is set to receive more than $7 billion for highway programs, $457 million for bridge replacement and repairs, $910 million to improve public transit options, and $100 million to expand high-speed internet. Because of Democrats, communities across North Carolina will be healthier, better connected, and on path to win the economic competition for the 21st century.
President Biden promised to work across the aisle and forge consensus to deliver results — and that is exactly what he has done. Rural communities will be better for it.[This op-ed first appeared in Greensville’s Daily Reflector.]