Trump to fast-track roads construction in $1 trillion plan.
President Trump vowed Tuesday that his deregulation agenda would fast-track highway and bridge construction in a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, cutting the red tape that stalled so-called “shovelready” projects in the Obama administration’s massive stimulus spending program.
But the president’s frequently touted plan to rebuild America’s highways, railways and airports — a plan that’s still on the drawing board in the White House — faces budget hurdles in Congress that are likely to dwarf any potential obstacles presented by the permitting process.
Mr. Trump, speaking to business leaders and union workers at separate events in Washington on Tuesday, made a sales pitch for his administration’s infrastructure plan.
“We have to build roads. We have to build highways. We’re talking about a major infrastructure bill of $1 trillion, perhaps even more,” he said at a town hall-style forum at the White House with 52 chief executive officers from the New York region.
He said he would scale back a federal permitting process for road and highway construction — a process that can take up to 10 years or more — to 12 months.
“Ten years to 20 years and then they vote, and you lose. They don’t want it,” he told the businessmen. “And it costs sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars just to go through the process.”
Stymied by hurdles in Congress and facing roadblocks in the courts, Mr. Trump has had his biggest impact since taking office by scrapping regulations put in place by the previous president.
He told the business leaders that he would do “a very major haircut” on Dodd-Frank financial regulations.
The Trump administration describes the infrastructure plan as more about regulatory reform and alternative financing than a federal spending spree. It is supposed to rely on public-private partnerships to help reduce the huge tab.
Still, any new spending will hit opposition in Congress with a cash crunch for the federal government looming and deficits expected to soar.
Mr. Trump focused on how his plan would improve highways and bridges, unlike, he said, the failed spending program of his predecessor.
The Obama administration’s nearly $831 billion stimulus spending bill, passed in 2009, has been criticized for putting only a fraction of the money into construction projects, many of which were long delayed despite promises that they were “shovel-ready.”
“Nobody ever saw anything built. To this day I haven’t heard of anything built,” said Mr. Trump. “They used most of that money and spent it on social programs, and we want this to be on infrastructure.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers recently assigned an overall D+ grade to the country’s infrastructure, and estimated that needed repairs over the next four years will cost $3.6 trillion.
Later in the day, Mr. Trump addressed a trade union conference at a nearby hotel.
He boasted about the jobs an infrastructure program would create, and urged union workers to put pressure on Congress to pass it.
“Since taking office, I’ve signed one action after another to eliminate jobkilling regulations that stand in the way,” he said.
For both the CEOs and the union workers, Mr. Trump presented a huge chart that detailed the myriad steps in federal permitting. The process included 17 federal agencies, 29 statutes and five executive orders that needed to be satisfied.
“We’re getting rid of many of these regulations. You have to go through 17 agencies,” he told the union conference.
He noted early successes in boosting the economy through deregulation.
“In February alone, we added almost 60,000 new construction jobs in the country. I ordered expedited environmental reviews for infrastructure [and] environmental and energy projects all across the country. No longer will you have to wait year after year for approvals that never come,” Mr. Trump said.
President Trump pumps aims to make good on his promise to spend liberally on America’s aging infrastructure, but such spending likely faces a stern Congress.