Building a Sound Infrastructure Plan

Posted on March 12, 2018

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says details about the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan should be coming out soon. The goal of the plan is to spend roughly $200 billion in federal funds and generate $1.5 trillion in spending by state and local governments and private investors for transportation, energy, water and other infrastructure projects.

Government investment in infrastructure is a priority issue for NAIOP in 2018. Last month, NAIOP President and CEO Tom Bisacquino wrote an op-ed for Fox News, reminding readers: “In the real estate industry, infrastructure encourages development. People are more likely to develop property, start businesses and choose to live where the roads, bridges, ports and power grid are dependable.”

Last week, Chao told the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials that the plan’s guiding principles are:

  • To use federal dollars as seed money to incentivize infrastructure investment;
  • To provide for the needs of rural communities;
  • To streamline permitting and speed up project delivery; and
  • To reduce unnecessary and “overly burdensome regulations.”

One goal is to get state and municipal governments more involved. “We really believe it’s at the state and local level that the best knowledge about infrastructure and the needs of the community are realized,” Chao said.

She adds that reducing regulation is key. “If the permitting process can be sped up, it will allow more projects to be available for the private sector to invest,” the secretary told lawmakers in testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Chao said there are “many ways in which the permitting process can be improved without sacrificing environmental quality.” But Democrats on the committee were skeptical. “If there isn’t a fundamental change that’s made, then citizens are going to end up with their environmental protections being watered down,” Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) said about the possible changes. He also opposed the idea of increasing tolls on users.

Also in question is where the $200 billion in federal funding would come from.

The House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, March 7, “to receive the views of highways and transit stakeholders regarding the benefits to the Nation of long-term funding for highways and transit programs, as well as the sustainability of current methods of providing funding.”

During a meeting with lawmakers last month, President Donald Trump supported increasing the gas tax by 25 cents. That tax hasn’t changed since 1993. But Chao wouldn’t commit to that, saying only that the administration would work with lawmakers to find funding.

Share this post: