President Trump addressing Congress on Feb. 28. Image via WhiteHouse.gov
In his address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, President Trump called for a $1-trillion infusion of public and private investment to repair and expand the nation’s infrastructure. He devoted just about one minute of his hour-long speech to promoting that initiative, but it was the first time the president indicated that public— not just private— financing would be needed to fund his infrastructure proposal.
Invoking President Dwight Eisenhower, who championed the building of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, Trump said “the time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East -- all the while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice, and maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.”
Trump said he will be “asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1-trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States -- financed through both public and private capital -- creating millions of new jobs.”
What remains to be heard is exactly how the administration expects to pay for the lavish infrastructure outlay promised by the president. Before moving onto other issues, Trump noted further only that his infrastructure proposal will be “guided by two core principles: buy American and hire American.”
Despite the lack of details given, the American Trucking Associations was pleased for the attention paid to infrastructure in this major policy speech by the new president. “ATA was pleased to hear President Trump again sound the call to address our nation’s need to improve our transportation infrastructure,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear in a statement to HDT.
“Trucks move 70% of our nation’s goods – more than half of our GDP – on a system of highways and bridges that is now on life support,” he continued. Spear added that the trucking lobby is “eager to work with the administration and Congress on solutions to funding this bold and long overdue goal.”
The Intelligent Transportation Society of America also appreciated the mention of infrastructure by the president. “ITS America looks forward to working with the White House, Congress and others to find intelligent technological solutions to repair and rebuild our extensive transportation system,” the group’s President and CEO Regina Hopper said in a statement issued right after the speech.
“Transportation drives our economy and makes America competitive around the world,” she said. “It connects communities, increases job opportunities, and it is essential to addressing equity, poverty, unemployment and access to education and health care.”
Hopper added that “safer highways and roads are urgently needed. In 2016, more than 40,000 people died in accidents on our nation’s highways and roads. Intelligent transportation solutions will go a long way to saving lives and preventing injuries.”
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also released a statement soon after the address. “President Trump made infrastructure a priority before the election, and his address tonight reaffirmed his commitment to building a 21stcentury infrastructure,” Shuster contended.
“Renewing the American spirit starts with creating jobs and economic opportunity,” he continued. “Our infrastructure is what ties all of these things together. The Committee looks forward to working with the president and the secretary of transportation to improve our infrastructure and strengthen our economy.”
The president along with Republican and Democratic leaders as well as stakeholders large and small may all be on the same page when it comes to the crying need to fix and grow the nation’s infrastructure, but the devil in passing any such plan will be in the details. And as there are still none to pore over let alone influence, where Trump’s proposal may ultimately end up remains anyone’s guess.