President Donald Trump on Feb. 12 will propose funding strategies for the country’s transportation network that would include $50 billion for rural districts, and streamlining the permitting process for construction projects, a senior administration official told reporters over the weekend.
The plan will aim for $1.5 trillion in investments through $200 billion in new federal funds. Of that, $100 billion would be used as matching funds for state and local governments. Agencies would need to apply.
Trump’s announcement following a meeting with governors, mayors, state legislators and other officials will coincide with the release of his fiscal 2019 budget request. The request is expected to identify areas that would be used to offset the infrastructure proposal. The president also plans to meet with Congressional leaders at the White House Feb. 14 to dive deeper on infrastructure matters.
Loan programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as private activity bonds, would be expanded by $20 billion under the proposal, the official explained Feb. 10. For rural projects, block grants would be established to allow governors to identify projects meriting funding.
Also, $20 billion would be dedicated for next-century-type, or futuristic, projects and Congress would be asked to dedicate $10 billion into a capital financing fund, the senior official said.
The environmental permitting process would be redesigned with the goal of minimizing reviews to two years under a “one agency, one decision” system.
“The primary way we get there is to have one agency lead, and then remove a whole series of duplicative requirements that are in law, where we will have one federal agency make a decision, and that decision will then be second-guessed by a second federal agency, which, of course, creates inevitable conflicts and inevitable delays as you have multiple agencies trying to make the same decision,” the senior official explained.
Trump chose infrastructure as his legislative priority for 2018. At the State of the Union, he told Congress to produce a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill and cited the construction of the Empire State Building in New York City as an exemplar for the permitting process.
The president had indicated he would call for a 10-year, $1 trillion plan during his first 100 days in office.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans overseeing the transportation panels said they would await the White House’s guidance before proceeding on what will likely be a lengthy legislative process. Key Democrats have called on the White House to pitch an infrastructure plan that would rely primarily on federal funds.
Ahead of the president’s announcement, the National Governors Association, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials expressed support for having a national conversation on transportation funding. They wrote: “We stand ready to work with our federal partners to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure.”