WASHINGTON – As further evidence that the Trump administration’s long-ballyhooed infrastructure plan released in February is dead, it was barely mentioned when the nation’s sixth annual infrastructure week got underway Monday.
Instead, experts pointed to the progress being made by some states and cities while Congress is independently making incremental progress on airports and water projects.
Trump’s plan calls for federal spending of $200 billion over 10 years to leverage $1.5 trillion in state, local and private investment. But his plan would shift existing federal funding away from popular federal programs rather than produce a new federal revenue source.
Congress instead approved a 2018 omnibus appropriations bill in March that increases infrastructure spending by $10 billion this fiscal year and another $10 billion in fiscal 2019 using existing federal programs.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a grade of “D plus” in 2017, estimating the infrastructure investment gap at $2 trillion over the next decade.
“We need a long-term sustainable funding plan,” Robert Slimp, chairman of Infrastructure Week, said at a forum held on Monday in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. Slimp is chairman and CEO of the infrastructure firm HNTB.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the co-founders of infrastructure week, wants a 25- cent-per-gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax to boost the Highway Trust Fund, a move that the president has endorsed.
Congress has balked at taking up an increase in fuel taxes, although there’s been some speculation it could be considered in a lame-duck session after the November election.
In Los Angeles' Union Station, Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke at another kickoff event on Monday, one of 110 similar occurrences across the nation involving 400 business and labor organizations as well as local, state and federal officials.
Glenn Youngkin, co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, described infrastructure week as “a chance to step back,” take a look at the problem, and then ask how we are doing.
“I think we’re making progress,” Youngkin said, but added that progress needs to triple in speed.
The recent passage of a bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill in the House, which would remove the cap on airport privatization and include government controlled entities as possible airport owners is part of that progress, he said.
The U.S. has only one privatized airport and it is in Puerto Rico, compared with 614 around the world.
The Senate has not yet voted on the FAA bill. The Airports Council International - North America is among the industry groups lobbying the Senate to increase the cap on Passenger Facility Charges as a way to help airports raise more money for infrastructure projects.
The House-passed bill, however, authorizes spending $1 billion annually on smaller, non-hub airports in rural areas.
Airport-improvement projects have been announced in the last year in places such as New Orleans, Tampa, Kansas City, Chicago and Atlanta along with New York’s LaGuardia and JFK International.
The nation’s aging drinking water systems lose two trillion gallons annually, which would be enough water to solve the water shortages in Texas and California combined, Youngkin said.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently released a bipartisan 2018 reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act to help move pieces of infrastructure legislation through Congress this year.
At the state level, New York, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana are among the states that have announced major infrastructure spending plans.