President Trump Releases Outline for Rebuilding U.S. Infrastructure
On February 12, President Donald Trump released his legislative outline for rebuilding U.S. infrastructure. In his outline, Trump urged Congress to act soon on an infrastructure bill that would stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next 10 years, shorten the process for approving projects to two years or less, address unmet rural infrastructure needs, empower state and local authorities, and train the U.S. workforce of the future. “For too long, lawmakers have invested in infrastructure inefficiently, ignored critical needs, and allowed it to deteriorate,” Trump stated in the outline.
The outline calls for about $200 billion in federal investment in infrastructure, which would be offset through budget cuts. The majority of the $1.5 trillion investment would come from state and local governments, putting responsibility on state and local officials to find the necessary funds to undertake these much-needed infrastructure projects without assistance from the federal government.This will be difficult for rural areas and will not be easy politically to overcome in Congress.
Additionally, the outline heavily supports allowing states to establish tolls on existing interstates and to commercialize rest areas on those highways. With a few exceptions, both of these proposals are currently restricted by law. Tolling is currently permitted in limited circumstances on existing interstates under the principle that U.S. taxpayers pay for their upkeep via the federal gasoline tax. However, the purchasing power of that levy has dwindled as fuel efficiency rates have increased; some have championed giving states the option of deciding when and where to set tolls.
The plan also embraces amending current law to let states commercialize interstate rest areas. Doing so while "requiring the revenues to be reinvested in the corridor in which they are generated, would support new infrastructure investment," the plan says. "States would not be permitted to charge fees for essential services such as water or access to restrooms."
Most notable in the outline are several measures designed to speed up environmental reviews on infrastructure projects. Specifically, the proposal would require lead agencies to finish their reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act within 21 months and to finish issuing the necessary permits three months after that.
Like Trump’s budget proposal, this infrastructure outline is a blueprint promulgating to Congress his plan for infrastructure; it is not law. With a Republican-controlled Congress, lawmakers will likely take bits and pieces of this proposal as they prepare their infrastructure package. However, some of the more “controversial” provisions will likely be eliminated as they could be deemed too politically toxic to pass.
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