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February 18, 2020 6:30 PM, EST

Trump Plan: Make Infrastructure Great Now, Surface Transportation in a Few Months

Donald TrumpTrump's infrastructure directive contained in the fiscal 2021 budget proposal wasn't without a sense of urgency. (Fox News via YouTube)

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President Donald Trump’s infrastructure directive explained in his fiscal 2021 budget to Congress is about a sense of urgency. “The time to act to solve these problems is now, before they get worse,” stated the two-page synopsis titled “Historic Investment in America’s Infrastructure.”

Emphasis on “now.”

When it came to surface transportation policy, a pillar of the infrastructure system, the administration’s directive will be forthcoming.

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

“In the coming months, the administration will submit a comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization proposal to Congress for consideration,” is a statement found in the fiscal 2021 U.S. Department of Transportation budget request. Emphasis on “months.”

The statement is part of the request’s sections about the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and the Office of the Secretary.

For the purpose of clarity, the request included the following statement several times: “Additional details on this account will be provided in the proposed surface transportation reauthorization proposal.”

This proposed proposal would update a 2015 highway law that expires Sept. 30 of this year. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee already got the ball rolling by advancing last year an aspect of the law’s reauthorization. Other Senate committees, as well as House policymakers, have yet to take up their drafts. Importantly, a highway funding account backed by revenue from fuel taxes is projected to be insolvent in less than two years. The Highway Trust Fund account assists states with maintenance and construction.

Infrastructure Proposal by Transport Topics on Scribd

Nicole Nason, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, was asked Feb. 10 about the surface transportation reauthorization proposal. “Federal Aid Highways,” for which $50.7 billion is requested, is among the accounts awaiting further details.

“We have been working very closely with Congress. We know there’s extreme interest in both the House and the Senate. Of course, Senate EPW did report out their piece in a bipartisan manner,” she explained. “We’ve offered record levels of assistance to both the Senate and the House so that we know that they are working up there to try to get legislations through the process, and I can tell you that we are, of course, watching the trust fund levels closely. We look forward to working with Congress in the coming months.”

Emphasis on “months.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Feb. 19, 8:30 a.m.: Politico hosts, “America’s Biggest Voting Bloc: Nonvoters.” Panelists include Fernand Amandi, principal at Bendixen-Amandi; Yanna Krupnikov, assistant professor of political science at Stony Brook University; Sam Gill, senior vice president and chief program officer at the Knight Foundation; Caroline Bye, managing director of Morning Consult; Costas Panagopoulos, department chair and political science professor at Northeastern University; and Peter Canellos, editor-at-large at Politico.

Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Carper

Feb. 19, 3 p.m.: Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) hosts, “GAO’s Foresight, S&T, Cyber and Data Science Capabilities.” Participants include Tim Persons, chief scientist and managing director for science, technology assessment and analytics at GAO; Taka Ariga, chief data scientist and director of the GAO Innovation Lab; Nick Marinos, director of information technology and cybersecurity at GAO; Stephen Sanford, director of the GAO Center for Strategic Foresight.

Feb. 19, 7 p.m.: Politics and Prose bookstore hosts a book discussion titled, “Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction.” David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, is scheduled to participate.

Feb. 19, 9 p.m.: The Democratic National Committee hosts a presidential primary debate.

Mood Swings

After learning the White House’s highway funding pitch to Congress will be unveiled in a few months, several groups have little confidence policymakers will wrap up their FAST Act reauthorization by a Sept. 30 deadline.

 

Buzz

In a few months, be on the lookout for some chatter about earmarks. Several top lawmakers likely will expound on congressionally directed funding related to infrastructure projects. (Bridge to Nowhere, anyone?)

Favorite Tweet

Phish said it best: “The tires are the things on your car that make contact with the road.”

Favorite Video

Secretary Elaine Chao, the country’s top transportation officer, offers you a festive sentiment.

The Last Word

The president is not interfering because if you listen to the Department of Justice they made the decision before the tweet ever went out.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) addressing Roger Stone on Feb. 13.

Kevin McCarthy

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

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