Sunday 25 March 2018

Trump heralds ‘big week’ for long-awaited US infrastructure plan

The administration’s plan is centred on using federal money to leverage local and state tax dollars to fix US infrastructure, such as roads, ports and airports.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

By Jonathan Lemire and Martin Crutsinger

US president Donald Trump has launched a “big week” for his long-awaited infrastructure plan, which envisions boosting spending by 1.5 trillion dollars (£1.08 trillion) over a decade to rebuild roads, ports and airports.

The plan would fulfil some of Mr Trump’s campaign goals, but would rely heavily on state and local government for much of the funding.

The American president said on Twitter that it would be “a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending 7 trillion dollars in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!” He is due to meet state and local officials at the White House later in the day to drum up support.

The administration’s plan is centred on using 200 billion dollars (£144 billion) in federal money to leverage local and state tax dollars to fix US infrastructure, such as roads, highways, ports and airports.

Mr Trump has repeatedly blamed the “crumbling” state of the nation’s roads and highways for preventing the American economy from reaching its full potential. Many in Washington believe that Mr Trump should have begun his term a year ago with an infrastructure push, one that could have garnered bipartisan support or, at minimum, placed Democrats in a bind for opposing a popular political measure.

But the administration chose to begin with healthcare, and relations with Democrats have only grown more strained during a turbulent, contentious year. The administration pushed two previous “infrastructure weeks” in June and August, which were sidetracked by other events.

The massive infrastructure plan’s path through a polarised US congress is not clear. Congress has just dealt with two federal government shutdowns and is turning its attention to immigration.

Mr Trump has pledged to fix America's crumbling infrastructure (AP)

Administration officials previewing the plan said it would feature two key components: an injection of funding for new investments and help speed up repairs of crumbling roads and airports, as well as a streamlined permitting process that would truncate the wait time to get projects under way. Officials said the 200 billion dollars in federal support would come from cuts to existing programmes.

Half the money would go to grants for transportation, water, flood control, and clean-up at some of the country’s most polluted sites and other projects.

States, local governments and other project sponsors could use the grants — which administration officials view as incentives — for no more than 20% of the cost. Transit agencies generally count on the federal government for half the cost of major construction projects, and federal dollars can make up as much as 80% of some highway projects.

About 50 billion dollars (£36 billion) would go toward rural projects — transportation, broadband, water, waste, power, flood management and ports. That is intended to address criticism from some Republican senators that the administration’s initial emphasis on public-private partnerships would do little to help rural, Republican-leaning states.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News