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Infrastructure Emphasis Appears on Many Fronts in First Week of Trump Administration

The first week of President Donald Trump's administration was full of developments related to infrastructure policies and investment proposals, from his inaugural address to quick executive actions and an early investment proposal from Senate Democrats.

The Trump White House halted new federal regulations that had yet to take effect, which caught some recently issued by the Department of Transportation, and the president ordered a federal civilian workforce hiring freeze that would cover all nonmilitary agencies except for political appointments and jobs that affect safety and security.

President Trump also issued an executive order intended to speed up environmental reviews and approvals for high-priority transportation and other infrastructure projects.

Trump in his Jan. 20 inaugural speech included a short but emphatic reference to his campaign promise to invest heavily to improve U.S. transportation infrastructure.

"We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation," the president said moments after taking the oath of office.

He also spoke of "rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor," and pledged that "we will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American" – terms that refer to including U.S.-produced goods and services and hiring U.S. labor.

In an earlier portion of the speech, about past policies, Trump said the United States has "spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay."

It is not clear when a detailed administration proposal will emerge, with some reports saying it could be late spring.

Elaine Chao, Trump's choice as transportation secretary, recently told senators that an administration task force would develop details of the president's infrastructure investment plan in bipartisan consultations with Congress.

After Trump's team moved into the White House Jan. 20, it soon posted some website positions on various policy issues.

Under a position statement labeled "An America First Energy Plan," the Trump White House said new federal revenues from increased oil and natural gas drilling could help pay for infrastructure needs.

"We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own," it said. "We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure."

On Jan. 23 and 24, Trump held a series of meetings with business and union leaders in which he discussed administration plans to cut taxes, reduce regulations and improving infrastructure.

After Trump's Jan. 23 meeting with construction union leaders, North America's Building Trades Unions issued a statement thanking Trump for "such a frank and thorough discussion" on creating jobs, infrastructure investment and other issues.

"North America's Building Trades Unions expressed to President Trump that we have the organization and programs, including and especially our apprenticeship-readiness programs and our nationwide formal apprenticeship education and training infrastructure, to help accomplish not only these goals, but to also help thwart efforts to undermine middle class job opportunities and cut the wages and benefits of American construction workers via repeal of prevailing wage statutes."

Some senior Senate Democrats including minority leader Charles Schumer issued their own $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan Jan. 24, which included calls to spend hundreds of billions more in the next 10 years on roads and bridges on the federal-aid highway system, on local roads, transit systems, passenger rail, ports and waterways, multimodal grant projects and infrastructure on public and tribal lands. They did not, however, include a proposal on how to pay for the investments.

In addition, more than 40 states have begun providing the National Governors Association lists of priority projects they would want to see included in President Trump's pending infrastructure investment plan, Bloomberg News and The Hill newspaper reported Jan. 23.

The reports said the Trump transition team had sent the NGA a request in December for states to list priority needs that could quickly move forward if approved and funded. The Hill reported that the NGA said more than 300 project requests have been submitted so far, including some that would require direct federal funding and others that could take advantage of public-private partnership or P3 financing.

Separately, McClatchey's Kansas City Star and News Tribune reported Jan. 24 that the Trump team had initially assembled a list of "about 50 infrastructure projects nationwide, totaling at least $137.5 billion, as the new White House tries to determine its investment priorities."

#washington #national #roads #safety #transportation #expansion #usdot

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