May 18, 2020 5:00 PM, EDT

National Transportation Week Came and Went With No Infrastructure Deal

Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump has voiced support for a Senate committee’s highway bill approved last year, and indications are his team is in talks with a House transportation panel regarding that chamber’s legislative version. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

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In late March, President Donald Trump proposed borrowing $2 trillion to rebuild roads, bridges, tunnels, etc. The proposal, he explained, should be made part of Congress’ economic response to the pandemic. In any other era, a $2 trillion ask would have seemed grandiose. Times have changed.

Trump’s revisiting of infrastructure policy endured for several weeks until he shifted most of his attention to reopening the country’s institutions. The president also continued to feud with critics, media and whistleblowers, dismissed a few federal officials and strengthened his presence on social media.

For a self-described master builder whose supporters refer to as “Builder-in-Chief,” Trump’s relationship with infrastructure policy during his presidency has been marked by brief bursts of attention.

Eugene Mulero


Inside the Beltway, politicos and pundits borrowed the slogan “Infrastructure Week” for this phenomenon.

On that point, it was fitting the president’s degree of enthusiasm for National Transportation Week. On May 8, Trump issued a proclamation marking the week (May 10-16) along with National Defense Transportation Day (May 15).

“My administration looks forward to working with the Congress to invest in the repair and modernization of our transportation infrastructure,” Trump stated. “In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the dedication and patriotism of our nation’s transportation workers have never been more evident as they risk their own health to ensure that grocery store shelves stay stocked and health care professionals receive essential products and equipment.”

Most congressional transportation leaders have told this publication presidential leadership will be a requisite for a massive and meaningful infrastructure funding plan to advance. Trump has championed a Senate committee’s highway bill approved last year. His team indicated they were in talks with a House transportation panel regarding that chamber’s legislative version.

Transportation Week Proclam... by Transport Topics on Scribd

But neither Congress nor the White House has put in writing an intricate plan for keeping the highway system funded long-term. Dealing with the response to the worldwide health crisis has become the immediate priority.

And, as the elections heat up, Trump may not get around to tackling infrastructure policy in the coming months. The same goes for Congress.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

May 20, 10 am.: The Senate Commerce Committee considers transportation legislation and nominations.

May 20, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for an oversight hearing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Freight Corridor

Is anything really shocking anymore?


Freight stakeholders continue to push for funding in upcoming economic stimulus legislation from Congress.

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The Last Word

I appreciate that even in the absence of leadership from the executive branch, many airlines have voluntarily taken on measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to protect crew members and those who still need to travel during this health crisis.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) on May 14.

Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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