/ Transportation / Trump’s Infrastructure Push Goes From White House to Ohio River to USDOT

Trump’s Infrastructure Push Goes From White House to Ohio River to USDOT

Parul Dubey on June 14, 2017 - in Transportation

The White House issued additional information about what it wants to see in a new infrastructure investment package, as President Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and other officials took part in a weeklong series of events focused on this major domestic policy goal.

While many aspects of the plan are reportedly still taking shape, the events amounted to the most public attention the administration has yet given to the issue since Trump took office. He had campaigned for the presidency saying he wanted a major infrastructure program to bolster the economy and upgrade transportation systems.

Trump culminated the week’s focus by visiting U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters June 9 to talk about cutting project permitting times before an audience that included a number of chief executives of state DOTs.

In his remarks there, the president said his administration is “setting up a new council to help project managers navigate the bureaucratic maze. This council will also improve transparency by creating a new online dashboard, allowing everyone to easily track major projects through every stage of the approval process.”

The state agency leaders also met privately beforehand with Chao for a roundtable discussion that the president briefly joined. The state officials represented DOTs in Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Other participants included Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

A day earlier, Trump and other senior officials including Vice President Pence, Transportation Secretary Chao and other Cabinet members met at the White House for infrastructure investment discussions with stakeholders that included eight governors, 10 mayors and other state and local officials and tribal leaders. AASHTO’s Wright also participated.

Trump also gave a June 7 speech in Cincinnati next to the Ohio River – with a towboat and coal-filled barges in the background – in which he emphasized the need to invest in locks and dams for waterway commerce as well as surface and air transportation systems.

The White House on June 8 published an infographic that included a “by the numbers” section on the still-to-come Trump infrastructure plan.

It repeated the administration’s proposal to invest $200 billion in direct federal funding over 10 years, but provided new information of how some of that would be spent.

It said $100 billion would be “for local prioritization of infrastructure needs,” while $25 billion would go into rural infrastructure and $15 billion “for transformative projects.”

The graphic and a related video also said the administration wants to create 1 million apprentice positions in two years under a workforce training initiative, and reduce project permitting time by eight years compared with current procedures to move projects from the planning stage to completion.

Trump began the week’s events with a June 5 White House event where he spoke about his proposal to spin off air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration and put it in the hands of a nonprofit board. That entity would be charged with quickly modernizing the technology that governs use of U.S. airspace, generating its funding from bonds backed by fees on airlines.

Trump was joined there by Chao and three former USDOT secretaries – Mary Peters, Elizabeth Dole and James Burnley. Chao followed that kickoff with two days of appearances before House and Senate committees about how the proposed FAA overhaul would work.

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