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Chao: Infrastructure Plan ‘Principles’ Coming This Month

Parul Dubey on May 24, 2017 - in Transportation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the Trump administration will release “principles” of its infrastructure investment plan late this month, and that the White House Office of Management and Budget is looking for spending offsets to help make up for $200 million of direct federal funding in the plan.

Chao made the remarks over several days in a television interview, a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and in a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Chao told Fox News May 14 that “we’ll be releasing principles in about 2-3 weeks, and then the legislative proposal will probably be tackled by the Congress in the third quarter.” That indicates the administration will offer a broad outline but leave most of the investment plan details to lawmakers.

In a May 15 speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicking off “Infrastructure Week,” Chao said: “As OMB Director Mulvaney recently announced, the new infrastructure plan will include $200 billion in direct federal funds. These funds will be used to leverage $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years.”

She added that “OMB is identifying offsets, in order to avoid saddling future generations with more debt.  That’s why a key feature of the infrastructure plan will be unleashing the billions of dollars in private capital available for investment in infrastructure.”

At a May 17 EPW hearing, Chao updated senators on the Trump team’s planning on when to release a proposal.

She said that at first “the administration’s timeline was in part based on the congressional timeline, and it was anticipated that third quarter of this year would probably be a time that both House and Senate would be able to pick up this proposal. In the interim, obviously the president is very impatient and he has asked that principles be released around the latter part of May. So the principles for the infrastructure project should be coming out shortly.”

Chao also told lawmakers that the administration’s package will not include a list of targeted projects. She said in discussions on how to pay for the investment plan “nothing is off the table.”

And she said the Department of Transportation is evaluating applications for this year’s round of $850 million in largely freight-related infrastructure grants included in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Chao said she hopes to release some grant awards “pretty soon.”

Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said: “We at AASHTO and our member state departments of transportation continue to look forward to seeing the Trump administration’s plan to improve the nation’s insufficient levels of infrastructure investment.

“AASHTO remains prepared to work with the Trump administration and Congress to develop proposals that advance the nation’s mobility across our high-demand transportation modes, and increase investment where it is vitally needed to build greater economic strength for America.”

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