As we welcome President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated infrastructure plan, key policymakers will continue to dwell over the best strategies for funding and financing big-ticket infrastructure projects.
The president’s plan is primarily an incentives package meant to motivate state and local agencies to drum up funds that could qualify for matching federal dollars, while turning to the private sector for buy-in on projects, as well. The grand goal is to reach $1.5 trillion in investments.
This debate over infrastructure “pay-fors” is peculiar due to the abundance of ideas out there that would boost the country’s infrastructure system for many years down the road. Take, for instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which recently pitched increasing the federal fuel user fee by 25 cents. Congressional backing of such an increase could possibly ensure the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, an account that functions primarily on revenue from federal fuel taxes. The trust fund’s looming insolvency is why Trump and transportation leaders continue to schedule “Infrastructure Week” events in the first place.
“A few weeks ago, we turned up the volume on the infrastructure conversation by offering up a few ideas of our own, and it’s encouraging to see that this administration shares our commitment to tackling this challenge in a meaningful way — and soon,” chamber CEO Tom Donohue said Feb. 11. “This will be no small undertaking. America’s infrastructure needs are significant and there’s a lot of work ahead, but now is the time to get to it.”
Other groups, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave the country’s infrastructure a “D” grade last year, also called for a fuel tax increase.
American Trucking Associations recently pitched a separate funding plan. The Build America Fund could inject a nice chunk of change into the transportation system over 10 years through a 20-cents-per-gallon built-in fee on transportation fuels.
“Trucking’s proposal, the Build America Fund, is efficient, conservative and viable, and will generate $340 billion of real money in the first 10 years,” ATA President Chris Spear explained recently. “We look forward to working with Congress and the administration and educating the public on why a fuel user fee is the most cost-effective and conservative answer to fixing our deteriorating roads and bridges.”
So, when the infrastructure debate ramps up on Capitol Hill, policymakers should not be struggling to identify a long-term funding fix that works.
THE WEEK AHEAD (all times ET):
Feb. 12: Trump unveils an infrastructure plan, and the White House releases its fiscal 2019 budget request.
Feb. 13, 10 a.m.: Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget will testify before the Senate Budget Committee on the fiscal 2019 budget request.
Feb. 14: Congressional leaders meet with Trump at the White House for a discussion about infrastructure funding.
Feb. 14, 10 a.m.: The House Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee hosts a hearing titled, “Oversight of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2018.”
Feb. 14, 12 p.m.: The Hudson Institute hosts a panel discussion on “The Trump Administration’s Global Economic Agenda.” Speakers will include Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs David Malpass, and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute Thomas Duesterberg.
Feb. 15, 10 a.m.: The House Railroads Subcommittee hosts a hearing on positive train control technology. Top officials from the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will testify.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
EMBARK: A self-driving truck operated by tech startup Embark recently completed a test run from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Fla., which the company hailed as the first coast-to-coast journey by an automated truck.
KEYSTONE STATE: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has announced funding for 45 multimodal transportation projects that will affect 22 communities.
GOVERNORS: The National Governors Association’s recently released “road map” report on state strategies to reduce highway injuries reveals that 39 states reported an increase in traffic fatalities in 2016.
Prepare yourself to hear the names Amos Switzer, Adam Smith and Fiorello LaGuardia in the coming months.
WHAT WE’RE READING:
In The Hill, Mallory Shelbourne highlighted Trump’s push for infrastructure funding. She wrote, “The federal government would contribute $200 billion to the package, a figure Democrats have already denounced as too small a number.”
The Memorial Bridge, from Washington to Virginia, is about ready to fall down because of the deterioration that’s been caused by the environment over a long period of time.
Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on NPR on Feb. 12
Our Man in Hoboken:
Eno Center for Transportation senior fellow Jeff Davis knows chili.