Biden's infrastructure czar Mitch Landrieu visits Milwaukee as city aims to speed lead pipe replacements

Biden's infrastructure czar Mitch Landrieu visits Milwaukee as city aims to speed lead pipe replacements

Allison Dirr and Mary Spicuzza - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

President Joe Biden's infrastructure czar Mitch Landrieu made a stop in Milwaukee to tout the benefits of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure plan for the city.

Landrieu's visit came as city officials hope to use money from infrastructure plan to significantly speed up lead lateral replacements in an effort to ensure clean drinking water and combat Milwaukee's longstanding problem of lead poisoning among children.


The sweeping plan, which Biden signed into law in November, is the largest investment in the country's infrastructure in decades. It aims to address nearly every aspect of American infrastructure, including water, public transportation, roads, bridges, ports, railways, power and broadband internet.

Landrieu, the White House infrastructure coordinator, joined Mayor Cavalier Johnson, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and others on Wednesday afternoon. Johnson said the infrastructure law offered "generational opportunities" for the city and state. 

"The bipartisan infrastructure law established a dedicated funding source for lead service line replacements for the first time and is a much-needed boost to Milwaukee's program," he said, adding it would create family supporting, union jobs in the city.

A Johnson spokesman said the federal infrastructure law will allow the city to "significantly speed up" lead pipe replacements but did not provide figures to the Journal Sentinel.

Nearly 70,000 lead service lines still exist in the city, and estimates put the cost of replacing all the lead service lines in Milwaukee, on both public and private property, at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lead poisoning can carry lifelong consequences, particularly for young children, and there is no safe level of exposure. Sources include paint chips and plumbing that carries drinking water.


The city expected to find out this fall how it will be able to access a portion of the approximately $48 million that has been allocated to Wisconsin for lead service line replacements in 2022.

Additional funding for lead service line replacements is expected to come to the state in future years.


The White House says that the infrastructure law will include the following investments for Wisconsin:

  • Funding $5.2 billion for highway repairs and $225 million for bridge replacements and repairs.
  • Providing more than $590 million in public transit and $79 million to expand Wisconsin's network of EV charging stations.
  • Bringing high-speed internet to some 318,000 Wisconsinites who currently lack access.
  • Spending $841 million to eliminate lead pipes in Wisconsin and provide clean drinking water in the state.

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