Construction industry officials watching and listening to President Trump’s State of the Union Address got the “mention” they were waiting for, as Trump said he wants to work with Congress on legislation that would bring about a “great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure.”
In the roughly 80-minute speech, delivered on Feb. 5, the infrastructure section was brief. Trump devoting much more time and attention to border security, including a call for “a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.”
On the infrastructure issue, the President provided no specifics about how large the plan should be or how he would like to pay for it.
By comparison, in his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump fleshed out his ideas a bit. He put a number on his plan, saying it should be "at least $1.5 trillion." He also said federal dollars "should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit."
Thhis time, the president didn't disclose details. But he did say that infrastructure is an opportunity for bipartisan action—something the industry groups that commented on the speech agreed with. But many also said finding solid long-range revenue is a must, especially for the ailing Highway Trust Fund.
Trump said, “Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure.”
He added, “I know that the Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill—and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future.”
The president continued, “‘This is not an option. This is a necessity.”
DeFazio, Graves Comment
A leading House lawmaker, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), said he agreed with Trump that infrastructure is an issue about which both parties can come together and upgrade highways, transit, airports and other facilities.
But DeFazio added, “None of this can happen…if we continue to ignore the looming crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund.” He said a plan must include “sustainable, long-term federal funding.”
The House committee’s top Republican, Sam Graves of Missouri, said that a proposal should “address our long-term funding issues, cut the time and costs involved in the project delivery process” and include “the safe and timely integration of 21st century technology.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Trump did not “put forward any real proposals” on issues including infrastructure. Pelosi said the president has an opportunity to team with Democrats to make “the bold investments need to rebuild America’s infrastructure in a green and modern way.”
Calls for Trust Fund 'Fix'
Dave Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association president and chief executive officer, agreed with DeFazio. Bauer said, “A permanent revenue solution to the chronic shortfall plaguing the Highway Trust Fund should be the foundational priority for any infrastructure package.”
Many other engineering, construction and transportation groups weighed in with similar reactions to the speech.
Jim Tymon, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials executive director, said the Trump administration backing can make a transportation bill “that rare opportunity to bring members of Congress together from both sides of the aisle.” Tymon also called for “a national plan to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.”
Linda Bauer Darr, American Council of Engineering Companies president and CEO, said, “A broad coalition of business and labor wants to get this done and most important of all, the American people want their leaders to act.”
Like others, Darr also noted there is a need “to find new and sustainable revenue to support an aggressive program.”
Robin A. Kemper, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers said that “an infrastructure bill is overdue” and listed several priorities to be in it. They include a Highway Trust Fund fix, eliminating the cap on airline passenger facility charges—a revenue source for airport improvements—and appropriating all of the annual revenue that flows into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.”
At the Associated General Contractors of America, CEO Stephen E. Sandherr noted that infrastructure investment can promote economic growth by “the expansion of new, high-paying construction career opportunities.” Other economic benefits can come from easing traffic congestion, ensuring clean drinking water and improving safety.”
Associated Builders and Contractors CEO Michael D. Bellaman praised Trump policies, including “a renewed focus” on reconstructing infrastructure.