WASHINGTON – The White House will host a summit Thursday to help speed up construction projects tied to the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, an effort to improve coordination with mayors and governors who directly account for 90% of the spending.

“This is the first time we’ve attempted this in 50 years at this level,” said Mitch Landrieu, White House infrastructure coordinator and former New Orleans mayor. “We’re really going to try very hard to make it faster and try to make it better, and try to get at least all the federal agencies focused on speeding up the pace of design, construction and permitting.”

The event comes at a critical time for the nearly year-old law, as high inflation and shortages of workers and materials threaten to delay many projects.

At stake is a legacy-building investment championed by President Joe Biden, who has said it is the largest set of public works projects since the Interstate Highway System began in the 1950s under President Dwight Eisenhower. Heading into this year’s midterm elections, Biden has repeatedly told voters that the administration can get things done with Democrats and Republicans working together.

Administration officials plan to use the summit to pave the way for accelerating the pace of construction, which in turn can help control costs and maximize value for dollars spent.

The Department of Transportation will launch an internal hub to provide best practices in project design, planning and construction for state and local leaders. The Commerce Department will have a “Dig Once” effort so construction workers don’t repeatedly dig holes in roads to lay water pipes, broadband hookups, and power and natural gas lines, in addition to other enforcement efforts. government agencies and industry groups.

“I hope that the more we work on this and the better we get, the more money and time we save,” said Landrieu, who will speak at the event. along with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, among others.

Some 3,000 people are expected to gather in person and online for the summit, which begins Thursday morning. It will overlap with Biden being away from the White House while he travels to western states.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will speak on a panel about getting projects done on time. He said inflation, worker shortages and supply chain issues have been barriers and cause up to a 30% increase in projected costs.

“All of those issues are the most critical threat to what we’re trying to do,” Hancock said.

Denver is using federal funds to ensure neighborhoods stay connected as express lanes are added to a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 70 that bisects the city. Hancock wanted to make sure that the neighborhoods on either side of the road were not cut off from each other, which could make it difficult for children to attend school. Infrastructure Act funding provided an additional $14 million to keep neighborhoods intact, and the project is scheduled for completion in 2026.

Hancock said the infrastructure law also created an “unprecedented” opportunity to partner with minority- and women-owned contractors.

“We must not let this moment pass,” he said.

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