Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Mayor Tim Kelly announced Monday, July 26, 2021, in front of Orchard Knob Elementary School, that the city will fund seven positions in seven Hamilton County Schools within city limits to provide wraparound services for students. The decision is the first such investment by the city since the schools merged in 1997.

I learned on the campaign trail that when it comes to potholes, everyone in Chattanooga has a story. Ask any Chattanooga resident and they can name at least one road that is long overdue for repairs.

There are potholes in turning lanes, ruts on exit ramps, cracks at intersections and sinkholes on back roads. Residents are fed up with the civic neglect that plays havoc with our vehicles and tries our patience.

But beyond ruts and potholes, the problem runs much deeper. There are crumbling shoulders, aging bridges, overloaded sewer systems and leaky tunnels that will require hundreds of millions of dollars to repair, not to mention the additional improvement needed to allow our community to grow and thrive.

Chattanooga's roads, bridges and tunnels need a new lease on life — not just for our safety and sanity, but to propel us into the next century and allow us to grow the economy, strengthen our neighborhoods and expand access to good-paying jobs.

That's one reason why I'm excited about the bipartisan infrastructure framework plan that is working its way through Congress. This plan is the single largest long-term infrastructure investment that this country has seen in nearly a century, and Chattanooga needs it.

If passed, the infrastructure package would invest tens of millions of dollars in Chattanooga's roads and bridges. These funds would offer support to our administration's existing road repair plan and allow our team to add more roads to the schedule, meaning Chattanooga residents will see significant and timely repairs.

And we could put money back in the pockets of Chattanoogans by investing in water infrastructure, reducing sewer fees, helping commuters move more efficiently, and speeding the construction of quality workforce housing.

But there's more to infrastructure than asphalt and concrete. These dollars can ensure that Chattanooga is prepared for the green economy of the future, by allowing us to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, from charging stations to new, efficient transit options.

Within the proposed framework, over $15 billion in funds is allocated to electric vehicle infrastructure and electric transit. This investment will build a network of 500,000 chargers along highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities, ensuring that Chattanooga is prepared for the green economy of the future, and giving our residents better access to education and jobs training opportunities. And these investments will also support the momentum of our local economic trajectory with Volkswagen's investment in electric mobility and the recent expansion of a key battery component supplier, PUREGraphite.

These dollars will also allow us to continue to lead the nation in equitable internet access by leveraging our portion of the plan's $65 billion broadband investment, an investment that for Chattanooga would double down on the success of EPB and allow us to continue leading the nation in this area.

And finally, this package will bring hundreds of good paying jobs to our city, helping working families to move up the economic ladder.

During my campaign, I talked about how we needed our leaders to put solutions over party politics. Investing in our nation's infrastructure shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue. In our own city, we've seen what's possible when we put aside our differences and choose localism over partisanship. I firmly believe that Washington can take those lessons to heart and, by adopting this framework, meet this moment in history with common sense for our common purpose.

Chattanooga has the capacity to be the best city in the country, and this once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul our aging infrastructure will propel us toward fulfilling the promise of Chattanooga's potential.

Tim Kelly is mayor of Chattanooga.