If there’s one thing politicians love, it’s infrastructure spending. It creates jobs, pleases businesses and gives officeholders something tangible to point to when constituents ask what they’ve done for them lately.
So it’s quite a remarkable achievement for the Trump administration to have come up with an infrastructure plan that will likely be of limited popularity and difficult to pass in Congress.
The main problem for the White House is that the proposal allocates no new funds for bridges, railways, roads and tunnels. Instead, it recommends taking money out of other government programmes. And Congress will be given the unenviable task of determining what gets the axe.
In addition, the plan leans heavily on states and localities to pick up the tab for the projects. Their budgets are always tight and recent cuts to federal deductions for state and local taxes will make it harder to raise revenue.
Mr Trump wants Congress to authorise $200bn over a decade to spend on roads, highways, ports and airports. The president hopes the US states and private sector will stimulate another $1.3tn in improvements.
The plan was a Trump election promise, but it will likely entail Americans paying higher local taxes, fees and tolls.
The blueprint is part of a $4.4tn budget proposal which abandons the long-held Republican goal of balancing the federal budget within a decade.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:
“This is a bill designed to eliminate environmental protections and fork over billions in taxpayer dollars to big corporations that has been dressed up as an ‘infrastructure proposal’ to trick the public. This is not a serious proposal to make the investments America’s infrastructure needs — this is a scam designed to gut clean air, water, and wildlife protections, transform public highways and bridges into privately owned toll roads, and sell off America’s public lands.
The blueprint allows states to add or increase tolls on inter-state highways, and to charge fees to use highway rest areas. However, it bans states from charging for “essential services such as water or access to restrooms”.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the US needs to spend some $4.5 trillion by 2025 to fix the country’s roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure.
Regardless of who pays for it, though, one thing is clear: America’s infrastructure is in dire need of repairs.
Airports face a $42 billion funding gap between 2016 and 2025, according to the ASCE. With some two million people per day coming through US airports, congestion is becoming a major problem.
Out of the 614,387 bridges in the US, more than 200,000 are more than 50 years old. The report estimates it would cost some $123 billion just to fix the bridges in the US. According to a report by the US Department of Transportation there’s a $836 billion backlog of unmet capital needed to fix the highways and bridges in the US,.
According to the report, many of the one million pipes that carry America’s drinking water have been in use for almost 100 years are in critical need of attention. The aging system makes water breaks more prevalent, which means there are about two trillion gallons of treated water lost each year.
Between 2016 and 2025, there’s an investment gap of about $177 billion for infrastructure that supports electricity, like power plants and power lines. Most power lines in the US were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Roads in the US are in bad shape. Crumbling roads cost Americans about $160 billion in wasted fuel in 2014, according to the report.
The administration said on Monday that the proposal is a starting point for negotiations. Trump will try to sell the proposal to congressional members on Wednesday.