Infrastructure - APRIL 6, 2017

Trump may accelerate introduction of $1t infrastructure bill

by Andrea Waitrovich

U.S. President Donald Trump said an interview with The New York Times he might unveil his infrastructure plan earlier than expected. The White House plan for rebuilding the country's deteriorating roads, bridges and tunnels had been expected later this year. In addition, he is quoted stating he may combine it with another bill, possibly healthcare or tax reform, as an incentive to get support from lawmakers.

The Trump infrastructure plan is a $1 trillion, 10-year plan to modernize U.S. roads, bridges, airports, electrical grid and water systems, offering incentives for public-private partnerships. This plan is one of his chief campaign promises.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said this week a rebuilding package could come as soon as May.

Trump also said he wants to streamline the permitting approval process and create a commission of about 20 to 25 people to oversee projects. He told the New York Times he wants to give projects 120 days to get off the ground in order to receive federal funding. And he may even appoint his fellow billionaire real estate developers to oversee his plans.

“I know all the developers,” said Trump, according to a transcript of the interview published by the paper. “I know the good ones and the bad ones. And I’m setting up a commission of very smart people that know how to spend money properly. That know how to build on time, on budget. And ideally, under time and under budget.”

Congress has directed the Transportation Department in bills passed in 2012 and 2015 to take dozens of steps to “streamline” regulations holding up projects, according to a CNS news article. A recent report by the department’s inspector general found work on a majority of the 42 actions required under the 2012 law had been completed, but implementation has been delayed, so the actions can be revised to take into account conflicting or additional requirements of the 2015 law.

A recent report by the Treasury Department identified 40 significant transportation and water projects whose completion has been slowed or is in jeopardy. The report found “a lack of public funding is by far the most common factor hindering completion of transportation and water infrastructure projects.”

And a 2015 report by the nonpartisan group Common Good estimates delaying road and bridge projects by six years to deal with regulations results in an estimated $427 billion in additional project costs, traffic congestion delays and impact from global warming emissions. The report advocates reducing the permitting process, which can sometimes take up to 10 years, down to two years.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members say they are eager to focus on infrastructure spending. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), who was a member of Trump’s transition team, said the panel would hold an initial hearing on the proposal for members to help offer input on the bill.

Senator John Thune (S.D.), the Senate’s No. 3 Republican and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said the upper chamber would be willing to move on Trump’s legislative priorities in whatever order they come, acceding to The Hill.

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