Trump to fast-track roads con­struc­tion in $1 tril­lion plan.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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