Just days after President Trump reiterated his call for a $1 Trillion infrastructure package, the Administration convened a meeting of more than 15 federal agencies to begin formulating an official infrastructure proposal, including potential projects and funding options.
The Administration’s launch of the planning phase follows a third hearing by a key congressional committee on infrastructure needs in the United States, this one focused on infrastructure access in rural communities.
The President has touted this mammoth infrastructure initiative since his campaign, but has yet to give specific details about how it would be paid for. The agencies tasked with developing a White House proposal are expected to identify new and existing projects, pinpoint burdensome policies and regulations that hinder infrastructure projects, as well as identify the funding options that could be used to pay for such a massive package.
During his Feb. 28 address to a joint session of Congress, President Trump said that the package would be funded with both public and private dollars, marking a departure from previous statements focused exclusively on private investment and tax credits.
Private sector financing is a funding strategy that could lead to inefficient and counter-productive revenue schemes such as tolling and rest area commercialization, both of which NATSO strongly opposes. NATSO has long supported boosting revenues into the Highway Trust Fund through a motor fuels tax increase.
A number of businesses, trade groups and lawmakers continue to express strong reservations about the potential for over-reliance on private investment to fund improvements to our highway infrastructure, particularly in rural areas where private companies would be least likely to invest resources amid fears of low returns.
Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) said during the March 1 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that while public private partnerships (PPPs) may be useful in certain highly populated areas, they "are not a substitute for traditional infrastructure investment." Focusing solely on PPPs "is clearly not an approach that is going to work very well, certainly where I'm from," Sen. Thune said in speaking with reporters after the hearing.
Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said America cannot "toll our way out of infrastructure problems."
Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called for the removal of barriers that hinder PPPs in addressing the trade association for state Departments of Transportation March 1, saying, “Business as usual is just not an option anymore.”
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