Trump moves ahead with infrastructure plan

President Donald Trump is promoting plans for US$1 trillion in US infrastructure spending aimed at boosting jobs and the economy.
Trains at New York's Penn Station. Cities and corporations will be asked to take on most of the costs of infrastructure rebuilding.
Trains at New York's Penn Station. Cities and corporations will be asked to take on most of the costs of infrastructure rebuilding.PHOTO: REUTERS

His campaign promise to revamp roads and railways seeks to cut federal spending and create jobs

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump will lay out a vision this coming week for sharply curtailing the federal government's funding of the nation's infrastructure and calling upon states, cities and corporations to shoulder most of the cost of rebuilding roads, bridges, railways and waterways.

He will also endorse a plan to privatise and modernise the nation's air traffic control system.

That plan, which will be introduced today at the White House and will be the subject of a major speech in the Midwest on Wednesday, will be Mr Trump's first concrete explanation of how he intends to fulfil a campaign promise to lead US$1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) in US infrastructure projects.

The goal is to create millions of jobs while doing much-needed reconstruction and updating. But the actual details of the initiative are unsettled, and a more intricate blueprint is still weeks or even months from completion.

What the President will offer instead over the coming days, his advisers said, are the contours of a plan.

The federal government would make only a fractional down payment on rebuilding the nation's ageing infrastructure. Mr Trump would rely on a combination of private industry, state and city tax money, and borrowed cash to finance the rest.

"We like the template of not using taxpayer dollars to give taxpayers wins," said Mr Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council and an architect of the infrastructure plan.

"It doesn't matter who you are, whether you're a farmer in the Midwest, or a mother driving your kids to and from school or work, or a college kid flying back and forth to school, you're affected by infrastructure," Mr Cohn said.

As a model for the approach, Mr Trump plans to send to Congress today a proposal for overhauling the nation's air traffic control system. He aims to spin it off into a private, non-profit corporation that would use digital satellite-based tracking systems, rather than land-based radar, to guide flights in the US.

There would be no cost to the government, Mr Cohn said, because a newly formed corporation would finance the entire enterprise, using loans to handle the initial cost of equipment and other needs.

On Wednesday, Mr Cohn said, the President will travel to the banks of the Ohio River to deliver a speech about overhauling the nation's infrastructure, including the inland waterways that are in dire need of attention.

On Thursday, Mr Trump will hold listening sessions at the White House with a group of mayors and governors.

On Friday, he plans to cap off what members of the administration are calling "infrastructure week" with a visit to the Transportation Department, where he will discuss drastically reducing the time it takes to obtain federal permits for projects. For highways, obtaining permits now takes about 10 years, Mr Cohn said, adding that the White House would like to see that reduced to two years or less.

"Time is money," he said. "The cost of infrastructure goes up dramatically as time goes on in the approval process."

The flurry of planned activity comes as two other marquee Trump promises - overhauling the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes - remain stalled in Congress, largely because of differences among fellow Republicans and intricacies of the plans.

It is unclear whether Mr Trump's promised infrastructure package, for which the administration hopes to attract bipartisan support, will fare better when it is formally introduced in coming months.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'Trump moves ahead with infrastructure plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe