Trucker 6588 Stateoftheunion 0

President Trump aims for $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill

Jan. 31, 2018
Yet concerns are voiced over efforts to broaden toll road use, impact of spending on federal deficit.

In President Trump’s first State of the Union address, he called on Congress to produce an infrastructure bill of at least $1.5 trillion while also easing the regulatory review process.

The President said the effort to modernize every aspect of the nation’s infrastructure is what “our economy needs and people deserve.”

Reuters reported details of the long-teased proposal are expected to be released in mid-February.

During his speech, President Trump requested each federal dollar be "leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit."

The President also noted that it is taking too long to complete infrastructure projects in the U.S. He pointed out that the Empire State Building was constructed in one year, and called it “a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a minor permit approved for the building a simple road.” He called on the permitting process “to be no more than two years – and perhaps even one.”

Other infrastructure points President Trump highlighted in his speech included:

  • The U.S. ranks tenth in the world in terms of quality of overall infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum.
  • One out of every five miles of U.S. highway pavement is in poor condition.
  • Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic in 2014, or 42 hours per driver.
  • One third of America’s bridges are 50 years or older.
  • There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks every year in the U.S.
  • Red tape has held back American infrastructure investment.

Though specific details of Trump’s infrastructure plan are not yet available, a leaked memo hinted at additional tolling of interstate highways, a position opposed by many in the freight transportation industry.

“If [President] Trump relies on the private sector and forcing states and localities to come up with their own funding, [his] infrastructure plan could result in a patchwork of tolls that span coast to coast,” noted Stephanie Kane, spokesperson for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, in a statement.

“Tolls are a wildly inefficient tax,” she added. “In addition to the diversion onto secondary roads which causes congestion and public safety issues, tolls will do unimaginable harm to businesses, as shipping and manufacturing prices skyrocket to account for those new costs.”

Others are concerned about the impact of new infrastructure spending on the federal deficit.

“Missing from the President’s speech was any mention of our growing and unsustainable national debt. Following a year that can only be described as a debt-financed binge, the U.S. is now on track to return to trillion-dollar annual deficits next year,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

“High debt is a drag on the economy, and the more positive effects of the tax bill will eventually be overtaken by historic red ink,” she added. “If Congress doesn’t offset the budget deal under negotiation, we could see two-trillion-dollar annual deficits by 2027.”

Yet there is also wide support for President Trump’s infrastructure initiative as well.

“We are pleased that President Trump continues to highlight the need for additional federal investment in infrastructure,” said Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

“For years, we have called for a long-term strategy to shore up the Highway Trust Fund in order to maintain federal investment in surface transportation,” he said. “We are looking forward to seeing the President’s infrastructure plan and working closely with the administration and Congress to advance a robust, long-term infrastructure bill that supports needed reforms such as streamlining project delivery in ways that also protect our natural resources.”

"President Trump understands that the best way to fully capitalize on recently enacted tax reforms is to make significant new investments in infrastructure,” noted Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America.

“While the tax cuts appear to be boosting the private sector, our economic growth is being constrained by traffic-clogged roads, aging bridges, decaying waterways and overburdened clean water systems,” he explained.

"President Trump made a strong and compelling case for Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to provide an additional $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investments,” Sandherr said. “These investments will help improve aging public works and allow state and local officials to make the kind of investments needed to maintain our global economic competitiveness.”

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), vocal supporters of President Trump throughout his successful tax reform push, tweeted its support during the State of the Union speech, saying it stands “ready to carry a solution for infrastructure forward.”

“Roads are not a partisan issue – they’re driven on by Republicans and Democrats alike,” Chris Spear, ATA’s president and CEO, said in a statement after the speech.

Yet Spear also recognized funding methods will be critical to the success of the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan.

“As both sides of Capitol Hill know, modernizing our infrastructure will require a substantial investment – actual, real revenue,” he said. “America cannot be rebuilt with funding gimmicks and finance schemes.”

ATA has touted raising fuel taxes to fund infrastructure improvements, an idea that continues to find little support in Congress.

The group also said that while “public-private partnerships might work for some modes like airports, but they are not a viable solution for the vast majority of roads and bridges.”

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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