Date:March 10, 2017
The roller coaster “infrastructure” ride in Washington, D.C. continues. With bi-partisan and broad stakeholder interest from both the public and private sector in an infrastructure plan, Congress continues to hold hearings and President Donald Trump continues to discuss a $1 trillion infrastructure plan in meetings. Keeping the issue ripe is the release of the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card by the American Society of Civil Engineers that gives our infrastructure an average grade of a “D+.”
Unfortunately, dropping the class to avoid such a dismal grade is not an option here, especially as congestion grows quickly on our roads and railways, hampering the efficient movement of people and goods.
Trump had a meeting this week with cabinet members and industry leaders in which he showed an interest in making “shovel-ready” projects a priority — a term that will not necessarily be embraced warmly by all members of Congress. This meeting, which had Vice President Michael Pence and secretaries Elaine Chao (Transportation), Rick Perry (Energy) and Scott Pruitt (EPA) in attendance, follows statements in the President’s address to Congress last month where he reiterated his promise that he would be asking Congress to pass legislation that produces a $1 trillion “investment” in infrastructure “financed through both public and private capital.”
On Capitol Hill, Congress continues to have hearings around a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan, including one this week by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development — a subcommittee that will be critical to approving the funding for any infrastructure package. Like the many hearings to date, while there is bi-partisan enthusiasm and interest around addressing infrastructure, the conversation disappointingly returns to the lack of details from the White House on a viable funding strategy. One potential funding source that continues to be discussed is the use of repatriated funds from an anticipated effort in Congress around tax reform, which is expected to be next in the major legislation queue on the Hill. Also, it will be important to monitor whether any funding materializes in the form of deregulation or preemption as projected cost savings for projects, but which can come at the expense of important state and local control over certain matters — like the valuable public right of way.
On the upside, the issue of a much-needed infrastructure plan continues to be on the radar of the White House and Congress; on the downside, we are well past the first 30 days without any draft proposal from Trump. We expect this roller coaster ride to continue through the spring with the hope that momentum builds for consideration and passage of a comprehensive infrastructure bill by Congress before the end of the year. In the meantime, it remains important — and far from too late — to communicate your concerns, priorities, and expectations to your federal representatives for any infrastructure plan.