President Donald Trump is consistently falling short on his promise to modernize the country’s intricate infrastructure network, said the top Democrat on the House transportation panel.
“Trump continues to pretend that he can wave a wand and magically rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Less than 1% of federal infrastructure projects require the type of rigorous environmental review he lamented yesterday. He is ignoring the fact that it will take real federal investment and partnership with the states to rebuild our infrastructure.”
The congressman took issue with the president’s argument that a convoluted environmental permitting process was the raison d’etre impeding the advancement of large-scale freight, passenger and transit projects. Trump emphasized his point Aug. 15 by holding up a chart with words in a large font during a press conference in New York City. The chart, Trump said, outlined the lengthy permitting maze construction firms must clear. It is unclear what was written on the chart.
A white paper DeFazio’s office provided countered the president’s argument by citing the Council on Environmental Quality and the Congressional Research Service. Reports that the institutions produced noted that most construction projects are exempt from in-depth environmental reviews and that evidence is lacking to support the assertion that most projects are delayed by six years.
DeFazio and other top Democrats on Capitol Hill advocate for boosting federal funding for highway construction projects. According to DeFazio’s white paper, “Infrastructure experts agree that the primary barrier to rebuilding the nation’s decaying infrastructure is a lack of funding.”
In January, Senate Democrats unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure funding plan that would rely primarily on federal dollars. The Trump administration indicated it would propose a plan this year aimed at providing incentives for $800 billion from investors, with $200 billion in federal funding.
The executive order Trump signed this week aims to reduce the permitting process for projects to two years by minimizing agencies’ oversight and approval of the process.