Infrastructure policy of Donald Trump
|“||We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure – which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.||”|
|— Donald J. Trump|
The infrastructure policy of Donald Trump is one of the priorities of his administration. He considers the modernization of American infrastructure as an extension of his career as a real estate developer and a concrete item to add to his legacy as President. He also views infrastructure investments as a tool to create jobs and to spur economic growth. In this 2015 book Crippled America, he cites the Senate Budget Committee estimate that "rebuilding America will create 13 million jobs." As early as May 2015, one month before launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump expressed his desire to "fix" America's aging infrastructure. He expressed concern about the state of American infrastructure on multiple occasions, drawing comparisons with other countries. For example, he stated that American passenger trains were slow compared to those in China and American airports to be dirty and dilapidated next to their counterparts from China, Saudi Arabia, or Qatar. He acknowledged that modernizing American infrastructure was going to be expensive but argued that in the end, such an investment would pay for itself. In this regard, his position is in line with that of the Democratic Party. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had themselves been advocating for more federal infrastructure spending.
On January 31, 2019, Trump issued an executive order encouraging the purchase of U.S.-made construction materials for public infrastructure projects, especially those that need funding from the federal government. This followed his 2017 "Buy American, Hire American" executive order restricting the hiring of foreign workers and tightening standards for federal acquisitions. As of February 2019, Canadian officials were negotiating an exemption for their country.
Through May 2019, two infrastructure plans had been discussed with Congress but had not advanced.
By September 2019, as signs of a possible recession appear over the horizon, Donald Trump could use, among other things, infrastructure spending to tackle the problem like his predecessors did, albeit at the cost of more public debt.
- 1 Background
- 2 Disaster relief
- 3 Energy
- 4 Telecommunications
- 5 Transportation
- 6 Water management
- 7 See also
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
State of American infrastructure (2017-2019)
|“||Our airports, bridges, water tunnels, power grids, rail systems—our nation’s entire infrastructure is crumbling, and we aren’t doing anything about it.||”|
|— Donald J. Trump, Crippled America (2015)|
Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assembles a panel of civil engineers to analyze government data on aviation, bridges, roads, transit, dams, levees, parks, schools, solid waste, drinking water, and waste water. In its 2017 report, the Society gave American infrastructure an overall grade of D+ and recommended a $2 trillion increase in funding for infrastructure over a decade, half of which for surface transportation, which includes public transit, roads, bridges, and rail. However, in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report for 2016-17 the overall quality of American infrastructure jumped from 25th to 12th place out of 138 countries considered. U.S. infrastructure ranked ninth in the 2018-19 report. Infrastructure is one of the "pillars" of the WEF Global Competitiveness Index. Nevertheless, while the U.S. has some of the most resilient infrastructure systems in the world, the situation is deteriorating with time as they are aging and increasingly vulnerable to disruptive events. U.S. infrastructure was built according to standards introduced 50 years ago, and these have become insufficient because of today's more frequent extreme weather events.
Moreover, current U.S. infrastructure practices do not do a good job of promoting environmental sustainability. Carbon-dioxide emissions per capita is higher than that of other industrialized countries, such as France, whose level is three times lower. Some three quarters of American commuters travel by cars as public transit is not as reliable as it is in other developed countries. American railroads are generally reserved for freight. Indeed, this is reflected in the 2017 ASCE report, which gave American rail the highest score in all 16 categories; however, the score is brought down because of the quality of U.S. public transit. By contrast, in Europe, most freight is moved through waterways, which is considered more fuel-efficient and cost-effective, while railroads are generally reserved for passenger traffic. The U.S. ranks second in road infrastructure spending, but only 60th in safety due to the high rates of traffic fatalities. On top of that, an average American loses 100 hours each year in traffic congestion. According to the data research firm INRIX, the five American cities with the worst traffic in 2018, measured by the average number of hours lost to congestion per driver, were Boston (164), Washington D.C. (155), Chicago (138), Seattle (138), and New York City (133). However, between 2007 and 2012, there was a surge in spending on mass transit. State and local voters are increasingly willing to tax themselves. In the 2018 midterm elections, voters approved an overwhelming majority transit initiatives at the ballot box. For example, residents of Michigan voted to legalize cannabis and to impose an excise tax on it in order to fund the state's transportation needs. According to the ASCE, Michigan and New York have the worst roads in the nation.
Representative Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, stated that the United States needs to spend at least $2 trillion on its infrastructure, including 140,000 bridges and 40% of highways that are in a state of poor repair. According to a 2019 report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), four out of ten structures need to be rehabilitated. In particular, 47,000 bridges are "structurally deficient," meaning they need to be renovated but are still safe to cross. That number is down 7,000 from 2017, but only because the Federal Road Administration changed its standards on what it means for a bridge to be deficient.
About 70% of the 90,580 dams will be over half a century old by 2025, more than the average lifespan of dams. Some 21 million Americans have to put up with unsafe drinking water each year. In 2019, floods broke through hundreds of miles of levees in the Midwest and wiped out millions of acres of crops. Local water utilities have struggled to keep up with much needed capital improvement projects on one hand and regular repairs and maintenance on the other.
Since the 1980s, the number of power outages due to weather events have increased tenfold. Even though many parts of the United States, such as Texas, have seen a renewable-energy boom, transmitting the power generated to the large cities when they are needed most has proved troublesome due to opposition from farmers and other landowners who see high-voltage power cables as eyesores with little benefits for them.
Many American public schools suffer from poor ventilation, heating, and plumbing. Some schools even leak when it rains. The ASCE gave them a score of D+.
Businesses and communities are concerned over the state of American infrastructure and the inability of Congress to fund a comprehensive modernization program. While federal, state, and local governments have been spending more on infrastructure repairs and maintenance in nominal terms, their actual purchasing power has been reduced because of the rising costs of construction materials. For that reason, amounts spent have fallen in real terms, despite a bump thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) following the Great Recession of 2007-8. Repairs and maintenance expenditures steadily climb while less money goes to capital projects. This trend has existed since the mid-1950s, but the decade following the Great Recession saw its intensification.
More infrastructure spending was Trump's most popular promise in his presidential campaign, with approval from two thirds of Americans. In his first speech as President-elect, Trump vowed to "begin the urgent task of rebuilding" the United States of America. In his 2019 State of the Union address, Trump once again called for investments in infrastructure, but offered very few specifics. Moreover, his vision made little headway because despite bipartisan agreement that American infrastructure is in a state poor repair and needs upgrading, members of Congress have not been able to reach a consensus on how to pay for it. The problem of aging infrastructure cannot be addressed by the individual states because the costs are too high, meaning the federal government has to be involved. The federal tax on fuels, a major source of revenue for infrastructure spending, remains the same as it was in 1993, at $0.183 per gallon ($0.048 per liter). In addition, the Highway Trust Fund is losing its effectiveness thanks to improving energy efficiency and the arrival of alternative-fuel vehicles whose owners do not have to pay the gas tax. Although people who attended a meeting with Trump in February 2018 suggested that the President was open to the idea of raising the gas tax to $0.25 per gallon ($0.066 per liter), the White House downplayed possibilities of such a tax hike. According to the Chamber of Commerce, which backs the proposal, it would generate about $375 billion over ten years.
Trump presented an infrastructure plan to Congress in February 2018, but it was rejected by Republicans. The plan relied primarily on $1.5 trillion in private investment.
President Trump held a meeting with top Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, in April 30, 2019, but failed to strike a deal. He wanted Congress to first pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the newly negotiated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to stop investigating him and to remove the threat of impeachment. He also wanted a package with automatic re-authorization of highway and transit funding rather than a broader plan with money for a variety of items from hospitals to broadband Internet.
In early June 2019, President Trump signed a disaster relief and recovery bill worth $19 billion. The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 includes $3 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair damages inflicted by natural disasters in the previous three years and to invest in resiliency and flood protection, unlocks $8.9 billion in disaster relief for Puerto Rico and offers an additional $900 million to help the territory recover from Hurricane Maria. This bill also provides additional resources to the U.S. Forest Service for wildfire suppression activities. Some $1.6 billion is allocated to repairing roads and bridges post-disaster through the Federal Highway Administration's Emergency Relief Fund.
In 2019, the Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, took a direct hit by Hurricane Michael and was out of action. It is estimated that $3 billion is needed to repair the base. However, the airbase will be rebuilt to withstand winds of up to 180 miles per hour (290 km/h). Winds from Michael had a maximum speed of about 155 miles per hour (249 km/h). Due to its location, Tyndall is well inside the path of some of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the continental U.S. When rebuilt, Tyndall will be an airbase "of the future," said Colonel Scott Matthews, a U.S. Air Force civil engineer. It will be able to host close to a hundred combat aircraft, including stealth fighter jets and drones.
President Donald Trump's position with regards to energy independence is similar to that of his predecessors dating back to the 1970s. President Barack Obama, his immediate predecessor, lifted a 40-year old ban on oil exports and granted over two dozen liquefied-natural-gas-export licenses. Trump's goal is to achieve "energy dominance," or the maximization of the production of fossil fuels for domestic use and for exports.
Shortly after taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, thereby fulfilling a campaign promise. He said he wanted a "fair" deal that would not undermine U.S. workers and businesses. He has also been rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations ever since, including the Clean Power Plan.
In March 2017, the Trump administration approved the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, reversing a decision by the Obama administration and fulfilling a campaign promise. This pipe line would bring 830,000 barrels of oil, equivalent to 35 million gallons or 132,490 cubic meters, from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, across the U.S. states of Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, before connecting to existing pipelines carrying crude oil to U.S. refineries. (See map on the right.) This project sparked intense opposition from environmental activists who argue that extracting oil from the oil sands produces 19% more greenhouse gases than traditional methods of crude oil extraction. The pipeline would also run across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world's largest underground deposits of fresh water. According to a 2015 State Department report, this project would create 42,000 jobs directly and indirectly, including 3,900 construction jobs if the pipeline was built in a year, and 50 permanent jobs to maintain the pipeline. This project has been held up the courts. A U.S. District Court for Montana judge blocked the project in November 2018, arguing that the State Department failed to assess the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on Native American land resources. In March 2019, the President signed a new permit in order to circumvent the Montana court decision. In June 2019, a three-judge panel from the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals lifted the injunction that block the pipeline's construction and dismissed a lawsuit by environmental and Native American groups. The appellate judges also agreed with the Justice Department that Trump's new permit nullified the legal challenge on environmental grounds.
In late May 2019, the Department of Energy rebranded natural gas as "molecules of freedom" which it sought to export worldwide. The announcement was made during the expansion of a facility in Quintana Island, Texas, that produces liquefied natural gas. This expansion is expected to bring 3,000 jobs to the area.
At an event in Salt Lake City, Utah, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced that the Trump administration is committed to making fossil fuels cleaner rather than imposing "draconian" regulations on them. He said the administration wanted to invest in the research of development of ways to reduce emissions as demand for coal drops and that for natural gas rises. Perry pointed to efforts already underway to replace old and inefficient coal power plants and to use more liquefied natural gas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. emissions fell by 13% between 2005 and 2017.
In June 2019, the Trump administration introduced a new rule on coal power plants' emissions, requiring electric utilities to cut their emissions to 35% below 2005 levels by 2030. It authorizes the setting up of targets for improving efficiency by state regulators and does not require switching from coal to other energy sources. This new rule replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which established specific carbon-emissions reduction target for each state. However, according to the International Energy Agency, the U.S. electricity sector would need to reduce its emissions by 74% below 2005 levels over the same period in order to prevent the global average temperature from rising by more than 2°C. Nevertheless, utilities are already moving away from coal as the costs of alternatives become increasingly competitive.
The oil and gas industry has been growing rapidly, thanks to Trump's support for drilling both offshore and on public lands, as well as advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technology. This method of extraction involves pumping a mixture of water, sand, and some chemicals into the Earth to separate oil from rocks, and "horizontal drilling," meaning digging a hole through layers of shale rocks, then changing direction at 90°. Fracking technology has been around for years, but recently, companies have been able to improve its speed and efficiency. Domestic consumption of natural gas jumped 10% in 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In the past, the U.S. was the world's largest oil importer and prohibited oil exports; in 2018, it became one of the leading suppliers of light crude oil to Europe, behind only Russia and Iraq. The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Italy are the top customers, importing almost seven eighths of U.S. exports to Europe. The U.S. could potentially replace Russia, the Middle East, and Africa as Asia's top supplier as well. Demand for U.S. light oil is expected to rise in the years ahead due to tightened marine fuel regulations. As of 2018, the U.S. is the world's largest exporter of oil and (liquefied) natural gas. In November that year, U.S. oil exports exceeded imports for the first time since 1973. Therefore, Trump has fulfilled his promise of promoting fossil fuels. In June 2019, demand for U.S. oil surged as attacks on oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz disturbed buyers. He urged countries that depended on Middle Eastern oil to protect their own ships on a "dangerous journey," specifying China and Japan.
The Trump administration is selling leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies for drilling. Although environmentalists oppose the project, saying that it damages the landscape and harms the caribou and birds that migrate there, some Alaskan natives living in the area support the move. While infrastructure in there is rather limited, residents receive their paychecks from the oil industry drilling in Prudhoe Bay, which also pays for a full-time fire department and a basketball gym. They also have flush toilets, which do not exist in villages outside the Refuge. However, after a lease sale, an oil company will need to first drill some test wells to see if there is a significant amount of oil in the area, and if they find it, they need environmental reviews and permit before they can extract it.
In 2017, President Trump announced his administration was launching a "complete review" of ways to revive and expand the nuclear power industry. Energy Secretary Rick Perry also noted the importance increasing the use of nuclear energy, calling it "a very important part" of the Trump administration's all-of-the-above energy strategy. As of 2017, nuclear reactors generate about one fifth of U.S. electricity, but this market share could fall to 11% by 2050 as the nation's aging nuclear power plants retire and because of competition from natural gas and renewable sources. The potential loss of such a large chunk of the nation's zero-emissions electricity generation is a cause for concern, especially as the financial viability of large-scale nuclear power projects has come into question. Perry said his Department was looking into small modular nuclear reactors, which can be put together to produce up to a quarter of the power a typical nuclear reactor generates.
Inconsistent government support and unfavorable bureaucracy and logistics have made research and development in civilian nuclear power difficult.
The Trump administration generally prefers fossil fuels to renewable energy. In fact, Trump has made his support for the coal industry clear, so much so that his electoral victory in 2016 was celebrated by the coal mining community. Nevertheless, demand for solar and wind energy continues to grow thanks to falling costs. At the same time, the percentage of U.S. electricity generated by coal power plants has fallen due to strong competition from natural gas, wind, and solar power. While the traditional fossil fuel industry employed 187,000 jobs in 2016, the wind power industry grew by nearly 32% to 102,000 people. At the same time, the solar power industry grew by almost a quarter to 374,000 jobs. In 2017, solar and wind together generated 10% of U.S. electricity. As of 2018, fossil fuels satisfy 80% of U.S. energy demand, according to the EIA. Climate scientist Michael Mann (University of Pennsylvania) argued that the U.S. could achieve its goals for the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement regardless of what the President does.
In 2018, as part of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar cells. The push for tariffs to protect American manufacturing and jobs in the solar power industry began in April 2017, when a bankrupt Georgia-based solar cell maker filed a trade complaint that a flood of cheap imports put them at a severe disadvantage. In response, the President imposed 30% tariffs of solar imports in January 2018. The solar industry is currently one of the fastest growing in the United States, employing more than 250,000 people as of 2018. On one hand, these tariffs forced the cancellation or scaling down of many projects and restrict the ability of companies to recruit more workers. On the other hand, they have the intended effect of incentivizing domestic manufacturing. Many solar power companies are transitioning towards automation and consequently will become less dependent on imports, especially from China. Analysts believe Trump's tariffs have made a clear impact. Without them, the manufacturing capacity for solar cells in the United States would likely not have increased significantly, from 1.8 gigawatts in 2017 to at least 3.4 gigawatts in 2018, they argue. However, because of the increasing reliance on automation, not that many new jobs will be created, while profits will flow to other countries, as many firms are foreign. By 2019, the solar power industry has recovered from the initial setbacks due to Trump's tariffs, thanks to initiatives from various states, such as California. Moreover, it is receiving considerable support from the Department of Energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) launched the "American-made Solar Prize" competition in June 2018 and has handed out tens to hundreds of thousand of dollars in cash prizes for the most promising solar cell designs. Prices of solar cells continue to decline.
Despite Trump's fondness for coal, his administration is not entirely hostile to renewable energy. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrote in an op-ed for the Boston Globe that he wanted to provide "an equal opportunity for all sources of responsible energy development, from fossil fuels to the full range of renewables." He added that "wind energy — particularly offshore wind — will play a greater role in sustaining American energy dominance." Zinke wanted to assist developers by allowing them to postpone decisions on detailed designs during the planning process so that they could take advantage of newer technologies. Offshore wind power is steadily picking up steam in the United States with numerous projects being pursued on both coasts the country. As of June 2019, there is only one operational offshore wind farm in the United States; it is located near the coast of Rhode Island. Some experts estimate that the entire East Coast could be powered by offshore wind farms.
A report released in late May 2019 by the Department of Energy suggests that U.S. geothermal power capacity could increase by more than twenty-six times by 2050, reaching a total installed capacity of 60 GW, thanks to accelerated technological development and adoption. (Also see figure on the left.) The report also demonstrates the benefits of geothermal power for residential and industrial heating. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced his Department had provided funding for a $140-million research facility at the University of Utah on man-made geothermal energy.
Priority energy infrastructure projects
This list is taken from the top ten civil engineering projects that pertain to energy. They are all public-private partnerships.
- Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, Wyoming, $5 billion. The Power Company of Wyoming will install some 1,000 wind turbines in the south of their state over an area of 2,000 acres (8.1 square kilometers) that will generate up to 3 GW of power.
- Atlantic Coast Pipeline, up to $5 billion. This pipeline would carry natural gas over 609 miles (980 km) from West Virginia to North Carolina, with an outward curve near the coast of Norfolk, Virginia.
- Hydroelectric plants operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, $4 billion. At present, the Corps operates plants with an average efficiency of just 80%, well below the industry average of 99%, because its turbines are over 50 years old. This scheme will upgrade existing facilities.
|“||In the United States our approach is private-sector driven and private-sector led. The government doesn’t have to spend lots of money. Leading through the government, it won’t be nearly as good, nearly as fast.||”|
|— President Donald Trump|
After thinking for a year, President Donald Trump came out against having nationalized 5G wireless internet infrastructure. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said this sent an "important signal" to private companies that were investing billions of dollars in 5G. Pai also proposed spending $20.4 billion over a decade on rural broadband Internet services. Since November 2018, the FCC has been auctioning megahertz of spectrum to commercial wireless internet service providers offering 5G connectivity. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said this was a step in the right direction and suggested that the Commission should not leave out "mid-band" spectrum lest the U.S. falls behind other countries. While previous generations of wireless internet offer the ability to send texts, static images, voice, and video through the Internet, 5G is considerably faster, allowing for high-quality video streaming, driverless cars, automated ports, remotely-controlled industrial robots, among other things. South Korea and the United States won the global 5G race when they began rolling out their services in early April 2019. Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Corp, Sprint Corp, and T Mobile US Inc have already begun implementing 5G equipment in a number of American cities with plans to gradually expand service as 5G-compatible phones become more widely available. However, a combination of the high capital costs and high debt levels of leading U.S. telecommunications firm could result in a slow deployment of 5G networks, allowing subsidized Chinese equipment to penetrate markets in Asia and Europe.
President Trump made the above announcement as he was considering banning Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from the U.S. market. His administration has already been discouraging U.S. allies from purchasing Huawei's 5G technology out of security concerns. His administration believes that Huawei equipment puts intelligence sharing at risk. Since March 2018, the FCC has considered barring the use of federal funds to purchase equipment from companies that could pose a threat to national security. By law, companies operating on Chinese soil must "support, cooperate with and collaborate in national intelligence work."
Founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a civil engineering graduate who served in the Chinese military during the 1970s, Huawei has since become a leading telecommunications firm, spending 14% of its revenue on research and development each year between 2016 and 2018. However, it has been mired in controversies. Huawei was sued in 2003 by Cisco and in 2010 by Motorola for alleged intellectual property theft. After an 11-month investigation, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee found in 2012 that Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese firm, were threats to national security and recommended that U.S. companies refrain from doing business with them. In January 2018, French newspaper Le Monde reported that servers of African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, were hacked using backdoors installed by the Chinese. The AU's Huawei-built IT system was a gift from China. Cybersecurity experts discovered that their servers' contents were being transferred to Shanghai. January 2019, Polish authorities arrested a Huawei employee and a former Polish security official for spying. The U.S. government has been trying to dissuade companies and other governments from around the world from using Huawei's technologies. In May 2019, the Trump administration added Huawei to the "entity list," which prevents it from acquiring technology from American firms without approval from the U.S. government.
Shortly after taking office in 2017, Donald Trump unveiled an infrastructure plan worth a trillion dollars that includes a $2.4-billion cut to federal transportation programs. This plan would eliminate subsidies for long-distance trains and commercial flights to rural communities with limited transportation options, including those that helped Trump win the presidency. He wanted to relieve the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of air traffic control and to turn it into a private nonprofit corporation.
In June 2019, the FAA announced it was giving out $840 million in grants for improving airport facilities and President Trump proposed $17.1 billion in funding for the FAA. Trump's proposal made it through the House Appropriations Committee with $614 million more than requested. Therefore, the FAA had $17.7 billion to spend. Airport Improvement Programs (AIP) funds will go to over 380 airports in 47 states. One of the biggest grants is worth $29 million, which goes to runway reconstruction at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee announced $3.3 billion in AIP grants to be handed out in 2020, plus $500 million for discretionary airport infrastructure spending.
Some airliners themselves have been financing airport capital projects on their own. For example, American Airlines and Delta have committed $1.6 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, to modernize the facilities they use at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Delta allocated another four billion dollars to the construction of a new terminal at the LaGuardia International Airport in New York City. At the same time, a number of airports are willing to spend money on their own facilities in order to reap the long-term economic benefits. In May 2019, the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) announced it would spent some $3.5 billion on a new terminal and on renovating an existing terminal for American Airlines, which uses the airport as one of its main hubs in the U.S.
In 2018, the Trump administration rolled out an infrastructure plan that allocates one quarter of the money available to rural areas, even though only 14% of Americans live outside of the metropolitan areas. This spells trouble for numerous large-scale urban projects and undermines aging transit networks in large established cities such as Chicago or New York City, which need significant funds for repairs, maintenance, and modernization, because it favors new construction.[note 2] Another key aspect of this policy is that it relegates primary funding responsibility to local authorities and the private sector. Trump's aim with this funding policy is to realize his promise during the 2016 presidential campaign to bring jobs to rural areas, where employment prospects have been dim, and to transfer wealth from states that tend to vote Democrat to those that helped him win the election. According to an analysis of data from the Department of Transportation by McClatchy, the Trump administration has been prioritizing rural transportation projects. Whereas the Obama administration directed 80% of the money from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program to urban projects, under Trump, rural areas got 70% in funding, as of 2019. For example, funding for a proposed Kansas City Streetcar extension was rejected twice by the Trump administration, but money for a highway interchange in nearby Wyandotte County, turned down by the Obama administration, was granted. The Trump administration explained that this shift in priorities is to give rural areas their "fair share" in funding for transportation projects and to re-balance the "historic under-investment in rural America." In fact, while South Carolina only 15% of what they requested under Obama, under Trump, they received 100%. Moreover, Alaska, Nebraska, Arkansas and Wyoming received more funding in the first two years of Donald Trump than they did under the entire presidency of Barack Obama whereas California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, New York and Illinois, states where Hillary Clinton won, got considerably less money.
The Gateway Program is a plan to modernize railroad infrastructure between New York and New Jersey and to double the number of trains passing between those two states. This plan includes repairs to the old North River Tunnel, and the construction of the new Hudson Tunnel. Existing tunnels between New Jersey and New York are over a century old and were seriously damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. These rail tunnels and the bus terminals are currently operating at full capacity, as are the ferries and roads. They are used by both Amtrak (intercity rail) and NJ Transit (regional rapid transit). If these tunnels were not thoroughly repaired and a new tunnel were not built on time, the number of trains crossing the Hudson River during rush hours could drop from 24 to just six, with dire consequences for the regional economy. In fact, the Northeast Corridor is the most heavily traveled railway in the nation and the region is responsible for 20% of U.S. GDP. Experts estimate that if the Northeast Corridor were closed for just one day, it would cost the U.S. economy $100 million in lost economic activity. The Obama administration tried but failed to fund the project in time. The Obama plan would have 50% of the funding coming from the federal government and the rest from the state governments of New York and New Jersey.
Although he was initially in favor of the Gateway Project, Trump later turned against it and urged fellow Republicans to cut funding for it. It appears Trump wanted to use this crucial infrastructure project as a bargaining chip with Democrats. Moreover, he dismissed the project as a local one that lacks national importance and a potential boondoggle. He subsequently cut money from the funds for the Gateway Program. While supporters of the Gateway Project argue that it is one of the nation's most pressing infrastructure needs, opponents are wary of additional federal spending and the fact that money will be taken away from smaller projects for their districts. In response to federal inaction, an alternative has been proposed: extending a subway line from New York to New Jersey. Under the plan, the New York City Subway's IRT Flushing Line (7 and <7> trains, currently connecting Flushing, Queens, to Hudson Yards, Manhattan) would go under the Hudson River to an intermodal terminal in Secaucus, New Jersey. It was estimated to cost $6 billion in 2013, half of that of the Gateway program. However, it may not be enough as a replacement for Gateway. In late June 2019, the state governments of New York and New Jersey passed legislation to create the bi-state Gateway Development Commission, whose job it is to oversee the planning, funding and construction of the rail tunnels and bridges of Gateway Program. This bill stipulates that each state is responsible for 50% of the funding and creates standards for transparency and accountability. The Commission is capable of receiving funds from federal, state, and local sources.
Federal funding for smaller projects, such as $900 million for the Washington Metro's Purple Line, was approved. However, Trump's highly ambitious infrastructure spending plan stalled due to fierce opposition from Democrats who took issue with the fact that Trump preferred private funding and highways to federal funding and public transit. Of the projected $1.5 trillion, the federal government would spend only $200 billion. In fact in 2018, up to $1.4 billion in funding for transit projects across the country—bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcars, and heavy rail—was withheld, although cities were already putting local resources towards construction and only needed federal funding to continue. Some cities, such as Seattle, had already obtained federal funding approval. It is evident that the Trump administration has no liking of public transportation. Funding was not released till late November 2018 for five projects that had previously been approved. Under the Obama administration, funding for transit on one hand and for highways and bridges on the other hand were roughly equal. Under the Trump administration, some 70% of the funding would go to highways and bridges and only about 11% to transit.
In February 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom reduced the scale of the California High-speed Rail project, from 520 miles (840 km) linking Los Angeles to San Francisco down to 119 miles (192 km) between Merced and Bakersfield, in response to spiraling costs. The State of California estimated the cost of Phase I of the project to be $77 billion, up $13 billion, but warned that the total cost could reach $100 billion. In fact, the project has been mired in cost overruns and delays. Moreover, even though it was initially planned to have one third of the funding from the private sector, the project failed to raise any funds from that source. In May 2019, the Trump administration cancels $929 million in funding for the construction of the railway, whose trains could travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour (320 km/h). In a statement, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) wrote that the California High-speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) "has failed to make reasonable progress on the Project" and "has abandoned its original vision of a high-speed passenger rail service connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, which was essential to its applications for FRA grant funding." As of June 2019, the project found itself under investigation for financial malpractice. However, in July 2019, the Trump administration authorized the State of California to assume responsibility for ensuring the project is in compliance with federal environmental protection regulations, thereby lifting a major hurdle.
In June 2019, the FRA announced $326 million in funding for rail infrastructure upgrades for 45 projects in 29 states. These grants come under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) Program, authorized by Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, and the Special Transportation Circumstances Program. One third of that amount will go to rural areas.
Priority transportation infrastructure projects
50 large infrastructure projects with a total worth of $137 billion were prioritized in 2017. In order to qualify, a project must enhance national security, improve public safety, have 30% of its design complete, and be ready for construction. The following list taken from the top ten civil engineering projects that pertain to transportation. They are all public-private partnerships.
- Second Avenue Subway, New York City, $14.2 billion. Phase 1 was completed on January 1, 2017. Phase II is underway. There are four phases total. When completed, the Second Avenue Subway would be 8.6 miles (13.8 km) long with 16 stations and an estimated daily ridership of 560,000. First proposed in 1919, this is the first major New York City Subway expansion in over half a century. The stations feature climate controls, wheelchair accessibility, wireless Internet, escalators, and elevators.
- Gateway Program, New York and New Jersey, $12 billion. This project is described in detail above.
- Texas Central Railway, $12 billion. This is the 241-mile (388 km) private high-speed rail line that connects Houston to Dallas and cuts travel time from four and a half hours to just 90 minutes. At present, some 50,000 people travel along that route each week on the road. Its rolling stock will consist of the export version of the N-700 Series bullet train from Japan.
- Washington Union Station Expansion and Refurbishment, District of Columbia, $8.7 billion. This is the second busiest train station in the United States and one of its national treasures. The project aims to renovate the concourse, temporarily closed in 1981 due to the risk of structural collapse, and the surrounding railways.
- 15 bridges on Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania, $8 billion. All of them need to be rebuilt or replaced urgently. Tolling might be introduced, though this suggestion has proved to be controversial.
- Purple Line, Maryland, $5.6 billion. This railway adds 16 miles (26 km) to the Washington Metro. This project was scheduled to go ahead regardless of election results. Construction began in August 2017 and the Line is expected to open in October 2022.
- Gordie Howe International Bridge, $4.5 billion, Michigan and Ontario. This cabled or suspended bridge will connect the U.S. state of Michigan to the Canadian province of Ontario, allowing for more traffic to flow between the two neighbors and reducing dependence on the Ambassador Bridge, which currently carries 2.5 million cargo trucks per year, or 30% of truck traffic between Canada and the U.S.
In October 2018, President Trump signed into law the America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. This bipartisan bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to manage water resource projects and policies nationwide. It also authorizes federal funding for various water infrastructure projects, including the expansion of water storage capabilities, and upgrades to wastewater, drinking and irrigation systems. This bill includes some $2.2 billion for a coastal barrier Texas, protecting it from flood in the future. The coastal barrier includes not just flood walls and sea walls but also pumping stations, drainage facilities, and floodgates for highways and railroads. The money may also be used for ecosystem repair, upgrades to port and inland waterways, flood control, dam renovations, and enhancing drinking water facilities. Moreover, the Act reauthorizes the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program.
In May 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made $2.6 billion available for water infrastructure improvement across the United States. According to the Agency's own estimates, some $743 billion is needed, and the State Resolving Funds (SRFs), which require states to match federal funding and repay loans and interests, have provided $170 billion.
- East Side Access, a rail extension project in New York City.
- Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, a private real-estate project in New York City.
- Rebuild Illinois, an infrastructure spending bill.
- Pork barrel, a term with negative connotations for public spending
- Infrastructure-based development
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- This does not mean such cities have no need or plans for transit expansions. See, for example, the Chicago "L" Red Line Extension.
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