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News » US » Industry reacts to Trump’s infrastructure plan » published 13 Feb 2018

Industry reacts to Trump’s infrastructure plan

Organizations from across the construction, transportation and related sectors have been outlining their responses to the infrastructure plan set out by Donald Trump.

There have been supportive, negative and fairly neutral reactions to the proposals. The plan seeks US$200bn in federal investment, designed to lead to a US$1.5 trillion program of work to improve the state of infrastructure across the country (link opens in new tab).

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) president Kristina Swallow said that the organisation has been warning of the safety and economic implications of deteriorating infrastructure for the past 20 years. “The Infrastructure Report Card has yet to give an overall grade higher than a ‘D+.’ The Trump Administration’s plan is a solid first step in having a real conversation about solutions for the nation’s aging infrastructure and a path to address our infrastructure investment deficit.

“Now it’s time for Congress to develop a bill that can pass with bipartisan support. If we are going to work on infrastructure, we should do this right and seize the opportunity to modernize our infrastructure and put us on a path for increased economic prosperity. This bill should increase federal investment including a long-term, sustainable fix to the Highway Trust Fund. Congress should not squander this opportunity for the American people, who are currently losing $3,400 a year in disposable income because of our outdated and inadequate infrastructure.”

The chief executive officer of Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen Sandherr, said: “The details of this proposal are important and many, including this association, will seek changes to further improve upon the President's concept. Yet the most significant aspect of today's release is that it signals the start of what should be a timely, bipartisan and bicameral process to identify the best ways to fund and finance desperately needed improvements to our public infrastructure.

“This process should build on the many positive aspects of the President's infrastructure proposal. These include increasing direct federal funding for public works by at least $200 billion over the next ten years; making improvements to the federal permitting process that maintain strong environmental protections while significantly accelerating project reviews; and finding innovative new ways to use federal funds to leverage additional state, local and private-sector funding for infrastructure.

"At the same time, as the President's own proposal makes clear, Congress must identify ways to address chronic funding shortfalls affecting the federal Highway Trust Fund that have put needed highway, bridge and transit improvements at risk too many times during the past decade. And Congress must also identify effective and long-term ways to fund other infrastructure improvements that are just as vital to our continued economic success as is the surface transportation program.”

Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) president and CEO Michael Bellaman said: “ABC is pleased that the president’s plan mirrors many of the key principles ABC believes will deliver the most value to taxpayers. For example, addressing regulatory burdens, such as streamlining the federal infrastructure permitting process, will reduce costs and increase the speed of project approval and completion. And expanding efforts to train the next generation of skilled workers will give more Americans the chance to take advantage of the jobs created by these infrastructure projects and help reduce the construction industry’s workforce shortage.”

Environmental organization the Sierra Club said that the Trump infrastructure plan would gut environmental reviews and rubber stamp permits for corporate polluters. A joint statement released by 28 groups said: “President Trump’s proposal is an unprecedented giveaway to the wealthy and powerful that would allow his administration and its special interest allies to unilaterally sidestep bedrock conservation, public health, and worker safety laws that keep our families and communities out of harm’s way. Across the country, Americans remain overwhelmingly opposed to any plan that would sidestep critical environmental and conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. They know we don’t need to hand over our communities to special interests. They know we don’t need to sacrifice our clean air, clean water, wildlife, and iconic lands and waters.

“President Trump’s dangerous proposal would hand out massive subsidies for wealthy developers to build roads and bridges without any regard to the impacts of hurricanes, fires, or rising seas. Taxpayers have repeatedly built and rebuilt many of the buildings and roads destroyed by disasters like Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma. To continue rebuilding over and over again without taking common-sense, proactive measures to address climate change isn’t just short-sighted – it’s expensive and dangerous.”

 Michael Burke, chairman and chief executive officer of Aecom and chair of the Business Roundtable Infrastructure Committee said: “The plan released today by the Trump Administration to renew America’s aging infrastructure is an important first step. Accelerating permitting processes and attracting private investment are critical components to fixing our roads, bridges, airports and seaports. In order to sustain and modernize our infrastructure, Congress also must find a solution to shore up federal transportation trust funds.

“Inaction is not an option. Congress should proceed with a sense of urgency during this legislative session to advance our national economy and improve the standard of living for all Americans through modern infrastructure.”

Linda Bailey, executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), issued a statement saying: “It is impossible to square President Trump’s stated desire to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure with his proposal released today. The White House released a ‘1.5 trillion’ plan that is largely smoke and mirrors - funding a minuscule 13% of the stated need, with funds taken from some of our country’s most successful infrastructure programs, New Starts and Tiger. The rules of a new incentive program seem to be plucked from thin air, with funds raised more than three years prior to inception arbitrarily disallowed from a local match. At the same time, return on investment, the measure used for evaluating investments by most corporations, is a side note, weighted at 5 percent.

“In recent years, NACTO’s member cities have led the way on transportation, both raising funds at the ballot box and executing visionary projects. New legislation that capitalizes on these efforts at the state and local level should reward those efforts, not penalize them, while creating more reliability for existing transportation infrastructure programs. A serious proposal for a decade-long investment strategy should start by ensuring the future of the Highway Trust Fund, now set to go bankrupt by 2020, follow through on policies passed in the bipartisan FAST Act in 2015, and provide real new funding to support cities as they work to keep up with rapid population and economic growth.”

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said that it fully supports the administration's infrastructure initiative. “Underperformance is evident across many sectors of infrastructure.  The traditional civil works funding approach is not sustainable to meet the nation's infrastructure needs. The innovative approaches and changes proposed in the Infrastructure Initiative will potentially provide USACE with opportunities to apply new financing approaches and streamline business processes to meet the current and future water resources infrastructure needs of the nation.

“The Infrastructure Initiative also provides USACE with the opportunity to further modernize the organization and use its engineering expertise to better meet the nation's water resources infrastructure needs.

“The infrastructure legislative principles released today as part of the Infrastructure Initiative support the administration's goal to seek and secure long-term reforms on how infrastructure projects are regulated, funded, delivered and maintained.  The principles are not legislation but are intended to form the basis for a comprehensive infrastructure bill.  The administration hopes to incentivize and expedite the delivery of the nation's infrastructure by streamlining project delivery and removing barriers.”

American Trucking Associations are pressing the Trump administration for greater infrastructure funding, saying that modernizing infrastructure requires ‘actual revenue, real money’. "It is heartening that the President is bringing the issue of infrastructure modernization to the forefront, but in order to address our nation's needs, it is essential we identify real and immediate sources of revenue that are conservative and fair like the Build America Fund,” it said. “While the White House's plan kick starts this debate, it unfortunately falls short of the President's campaign promise to go big and bold, because it lacks the required federal investment.  A proposal that relies on fake funding schemes like highway tolls and privatizing rest areas will not generate the revenue necessary to make significant infrastructure improvements.

"ATA has a solution to the funding question – the Build America Fund – which would generate $340 billion over the next ten years.  This is the most efficient, conservative and viable approach to funding infrastructure.

"To be clear, new tolling on existing interstates is a non-starter for our industry.  Tolls are ineffective and wasteful, with as much as 33% of revenue being wasted on administrative and overhead costs.

"We also have grave concerns with the failure of the Administration's budget proposal and infrastructure proposal to address the imminent collapse of the Highway Trust Fund.  To be blunt, America is hurtling toward a highway funding cliff.  If we continue on this trajectory, the motoring public, the American taxpayer and future generations are going to pay a very steep and unacceptable price. Any infrastructure funding proposal that does not address this situation is unacceptable."

The National League of Cities (NLC) applauded the administration for putting infrastructure at the top of Congress' to-do list and asking them for bipartisan legislation to rebuild critical infrastructure in cities, towns and villages across America. "With the release of this plan, the White House will hopefully start a domino effect in Washington for Congress to pull together a bipartisan bill that works with cities to rebuild America's infrastructure," said CEO and executive director Clarence E. Anthony. "Congress must step up to join cities in the fight to repair our nation's crumbling infrastructure and build for 2050, instead of simply fixing 1950. Now is the right time for Congress to join us in rebuilding national networks and core infrastructure that delivers what Americans want — great infrastructure that works for them and the economy."

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) commended plan. “This package includes a number of provisions that are designed to spur economic and job growth that will also boost the housing sector,” said chairman Randy Noel. “Specifically, it will streamline the regulatory and permitting process to get new projects off the ground, place an emphasis on vocational training and delegate authority back to state and local governments.”

The plan expedites environmental reviews by giving the Army Corps of Engineers primary authority to make jurisdictional determinations under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and removing the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to veto a CWA Section 404 permit, NAHB said. It added that improvements to the CWA Section 404 permit program are particularly important to home builders who rely on them to authorize impacts to wetlands and streams as a result of residential developments, utility lines and linear transportation projects, among other activities.

NAHB welcomed initiatives to help to alleviate the severe labor shortage in the residential construction industry. It would expand Pell Grants and alter the Carl D Perkins Career & Technical Education program to increase funding to high schools to promote strategies such as apprenticeship, work-based learning and dual-enrollment

Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron & Steel Institute, said: “We welcome the president’s framework for rebuilding infrastructure in America. Transportation infrastructure facilitates broad economic growth and directly impacts the competitiveness of the domestic steel industry. We strongly support the streamlining of permits for new infrastructure projects as a key tenet of the plan. We also reiterate our call that Congress provide for increased, long-term funding to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The steel industry appreciates the president’s commitment to enhancing American manufacturing and preserving steel industry jobs, and we look forward to working with him on this critical issue.”



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This article was published on 13 Feb 2018 (last updated on 16 Feb 2018).

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