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Trump talks future plans for U.S. transportation infrastructure

President Donald Trump said his proposal would reduce permitting time for transportation infrastructure projects, and includes an investment in new federal support for infrastructure, which will be matched by significant private, state and local dollars.

   President Donald Trump discussed the future of the nation’s infrastructure at the White House Infrastructure Summit last Thursday.
   Trump said his plan calls for reforming the nation’s “broken” permitting system.
   “We are already taking action to dramatically reduce the time it takes to get permits and approvals,” Trump said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
   He said building a highway in the United States takes an average of 16 approvals and involves about 10 federal agencies. The process can take well over 10 years, which does not even factor in actual development and construction time.
   “We want to streamline that process, and we think we can get it down to a number that’s closer to two years, and maybe even less than that,” Trump said.
   In addition, Trump said his plan involves partnering with state and local governments, adding that the proposal includes an investment in new federal support for infrastructure, which will be matched by significant private, state and local dollars.
   Trump’s plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure includes $200 billion in his budget for infrastructure that can be leveraged for a $1 trillion investment into our crumbling systems, the White House said, while also noting that the nation’s infrastructure has fallen to 12th in the world.
   The president is also calling for the establishment of a new council to “help project managers navigate the bureaucratic maze.” The council will also boost transparency by creating a new online dashboard, which will allow everyone to easily track major projects through every stage of the approval process, he said.
   However, the U.S. already has the existing Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard. The Permitting Dashboard said it is an online tool for federal agencies, project developers and members of the public to track the federal government’s environmental review and authorization processes for infrastructure projects.
   And according to Matt O’Brien, a reporter with Wonkblog, which is hosted by the Washington Post, in reality, Trump’s “$1 trillion infrastructure plan” doesn’t actually include $1 trillion in funding and isn’t even much of a plan. “It’s a $200 billion plan to have a plan that hasn’t advanced beyond that stage for six months now,” O’Brien wrote in a recent op-ed.
   “[The federal government] hasn’t said how it would spend the $200 billion of its own, or how it would try to get corporations to spend the $800 billion of theirs, or how much that second part would cost in tax breaks,” he explained. “There’s nothing to analyze, because there’s nothing at all.”
   Looking ahead, the U.S. Department of Transportation published a Federal Register notice, seeking comments by affected stakeholders and the public to identify unnecessary obstacles to transportation infrastructure projects. Comments will be accepted on or before July 24.
   “USDOT is requesting input because public and private project sponsors, engineering and construction professionals, related industry organizations, and other transportation stakeholders are likely to have valuable direct experience with the Department’s requirements,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said. “That experience supplements the Department’s employees’ expertise and may help identify when a requirement has become an unnecessary obstacle.”

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