In June of this year, when President Trump touted that the environment review process for construction projects would be streamlined as a part of a long-term infrastructure development proposal, the transportation industry breathed a sigh of relief and crossed their fingers, hoping that the President’s pledge would be honored. The White House’s $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure bill released in May of this year, proposed that state and local officials should manage the infrastructure permitting process.
Proposed Infrastructure Bill
Citing a clear understanding of the impediment to many infrastructure construction projects, the DOT issued a statement saying,
“The Department of Transportation recognizes that there are regulatory and administrative burdens that impede transportation infrastructure projects. The department also recognizes that the stakeholders who deliver projects have direct experience with those burdens.”
To put the infrastructure plan in motion, in July, Trump confirmed his approval of a 15-member advisory council to help the White House draft a viable infrastructure proposal. The council was charged to find “methods to increase public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, including appropriate statutory or regulatory changes.”
Things looked bright for the proposed infrastructure bill until rumblings from the White House on August 17 revealed that President Trump would not move forward with a planned Advisory Council on Infrastructure. The council, which was still being formed, would have counseled the President on his proposed $1 Trillion infrastructure program, which would have upgraded the nation’s roads, bridges and other public works.
Following Trump’s controversial remarks about white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, many corporate CEO’s began to resign from their roles on the President’s business advisory councils. It is rumored that President Trump decided to terminate several advisory councils to avoid the negative publicity associated with continued advisory defections.
But just days after the President seemingly put the national infrastructure plan on hold he took to the national airwaves to announce, among many other things, that the United States would soon lay the groundwork for a transportation infrastructure upgrade. “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, waterways, all across our beautiful land,” proclaimed the President during his August 22, 2017 speech in Phoenix. “Our greatest creations, our most incredible buildings, our most beautiful works of art are just waiting to be brought to life. American hands will build this future. American energy will power this future. American workers will bring this future to life.”
Elaine Chao, chief transportation officer in the Trump administration confirmed that a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure plan would be ready to present to Congress by the end of the year. In a bold public-private partnership plan, the proposed infrastructure program would use $200 billion from federal funding while seeking $800 billion from private sources, despite opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike who lament handing control of bridges, highways and public transit systems to the private sector.