“It was very similar, because the legislature at the time said, ‘Yes, we have to fix our roads and bridges; yes, we know bridges are going to fall apart,’” she said, but some officials did not want to raise any taxes or tolls. “So we just stayed at the table and said, ‘Give up how would you pay for it?’”

The final version of the plan called for less borrowing and lower tolls on the trucks. Marc Dunkelman, a fellow at Brown University who focuses on the architecture of U.S. communities, said the saga showed that Ms. Raimondo was “able to talk credibility to both Elizabeth Warren and Joe Manchin.”

“That will be a real benefit,” he said.

As labor secretary, Mr. Walsh shares responsibility for ensuring diverse hiring for the millions of jobs the White House says will be generated by Mr. Biden’s plan. In Boston, where Mr. Walsh served as mayor from 2014 to 2021, a federal civil rights complaint filed against the city found that 1.2 percent of more than $2 billion in public contracts went to Black or Hispanic businesses over a period of five years. Mr. Walsh responded by signing an executive order allocating 25 percent of city funding to businesses owned by people of color and women.

This year, the city government also canceled a roughly $25 million project that would have rebuilt Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury, after residents opposed the removal of more than 100 trees in the mostly Black community.

“I believe Secretary Walsh really wants the best,” said Stacy Thompson, the executive director of LivableStreets, a transportation advocacy organization based in Cambridge, Mass. “I believe Pete Buttigieg really wants the best. It doesn’t mean they always got it right. In some cases they got it really wrong. And I hope they learned from it. We really need them to learn from it.”

Mr. Walsh acknowledged that residents described the plan as “environmental racism” and said part of the problem was that he had inherited a project that had run on for a decade.

“One of the things we’ll be talking about is that as this money gets approved, there’s shovel-ready projects,” Mr. Walsh said. “This other project in Boston dragged on 10 years. It’s way too long.”

The salespeople have their work cut out for them. But the less visible work at the local level is now generating grist for their conversations with stakeholders and lawmakers.

Mr. Buttigieg said he was constantly referring to his executive experience when meeting with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where he claims he has had productive conversations filled with good will despite public criticism of the infrastructure plan. In return, lawmakers tell him of their own experiences.

“Susan Collins shared a story about a community with a memorial for lives of fishermen that were lost,” he said. “She talked about building a breakwater with help from federal funds that has gone to save a lot lives. She’s sharing why she knows these things are important to her community.”

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