Calls for more infrastructure investment but cuts loan programs and grants, opens doors to more tolls
President Donald Trump’s budget proposal released Wednesday calls for a loosening of restrictions on tolls, more private investment in infrastructure, cuts a critical loan program used by manufacturers to build fuel-efficient vehicles, and reduces workforce training grants that are used to train truck drivers and other transportation workers.
In a six-page fact sheet accompanying the proposed budget, Trump’s thoughts on tolls and more are given more context than previous outlines. Among those is the idea that providing federal dollars for local projects is not a solution.
“The flexibility to use federal dollars to pay for essentially local infrastructure projects has created an unhealthy dynamic in which state and local governments delay projects in the hope of receiving federal funds,” the fact sheet reads. “Overreliance on federal grants and other federal funding can create a strong disincentive for non-federal revenue generation.”
Instead, the budget calls for $200 billion over 10 years to be used to repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. The remaining $800 billion of the proposed $1 trillion plan Trump called for would be generated through private investment.
“Providing more federal funding, on its own, is not the solution to our infrastructure challenges,” the document reads. “Rather, we will work to fix underlying incentives, procedures, and policies to spur better infrastructure decisions and outcomes, across a range of sectors.”
The president believes that public-private partnerships can help and will improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of infrastructure projects.
“While public-private partnerships will not be the solution to all infrastructure needs, they can help advance the Nation’s most important, regionally significant projects,” it says.
Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio says the $200 billion investment will simply push “the responsibility off federal balance sheets, and [replace] it with unidentified incentives for Wall Street investors to invest in transportation.”
In addition to calling for more private investment, the administration’s desire to loosen toll restrictions – which are generally banned on Interstate highways – is a major initiative for commercial trucking operations.
“Tolling is generally restricted on interstate highways,” the administration notes. “This restriction prevents public and private investment in such facilities. We should reduce this restriction and allow the states to assess their transportation needs and weigh the relative merits of tolling assets. The administration also supports allowing the private sector to construct, operate, and maintain Interstate rest areas, which are often overburden and inadequately maintained.”
Naturally, reactions are mixed to this proposal.