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The Winners And Losers Of Trump's $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Feb 12, 2018
Originally published on February 12, 2018 8:14 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today was the day President Trump finally unveiled his plan to fix and rebuild the nation's bridges, highways, water systems and more. Governors and mayors joined him for his infrastructure announcement, which he called the biggest and boldest.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The framework will generate an unprecedented $1.5 to $1.7 trillion investment in American infrastructure.

KELLY: But a relatively small amount of that funding would come from the federal government. This plan shifts the burden for raising infrastructure money onto state and local governments. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: President Trump campaigned on a promise to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and, after taking office, promised his plan within the first 100 days. But other legislative priorities pushed that back again and again. Now a year later, the plan is finally out, and it proposes radical changes for how cities and states fix infrastructure.

For example, the Chicago Transit Authority wants to extend its Red Line rapid transit system another 5 and a half miles into underserved neighborhoods on the South Side. CTA president Dorval Carter says the transit expansion comes with a pretty big price tag.

DORVAL CARTER: It's going to cost about $2 billion to construct the entire project. And historically, you look to get about 50 percent of that from the federal government.

SCHAPER: But getting half of the funding from the Federal Government now appears less likely because if Congress approves this plan, that historical 50-50 funding model for transit projects would be thrown out the window.

Today's proposal includes just $200 billion in federal money. And for most projects, it would require states and local agencies like the CTA to come up with at least 80 percent of the revenue in order to get, at most, a 20 percent federal match. For highways, that means the White House plan would completely flip the current 80-20 federal-state funding split.

KRISTINA SWALLOW: It needs to be additional federal funding.

SCHAPER: Kristina Swallow is a civil engineer for the city of Las Vegas and president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

SWALLOW: At the state level and a lot of the local communities, they've already started to increase their investment. They recognize that the funding has been insufficient.

SCHAPER: Swallow notes that close to 30 states have raised their gas taxes in recent years to try to meet infrastructure needs on their own as the Society of Civil Engineers gives the condition of the nation's highways, railways, seaports, airports and water and sewer systems an overall grade of D-plus. And while she's excited the plan will spark debate over infrastructure funding, she's also concerned about what's missing - a plan to build sustainable infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change.

SWALLOW: We don't have enough funding to build it twice, and so we have to have a long-term view when we build our infrastructure, and we have to look at what we're dealing with today but what we might be looking at tomorrow.

SCHAPER: Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin, who was at the White House for today's announcement, says he, too, is disappointed there's not more federal funding proposed and that the $200 billion in the plan comes from budget cuts to transit, community development block grants and other programs that cities like his rely on.

STEVE BENJAMIN: It's important to build roads and bridges. It's also important to give people ladders of opportunity so they can earn a good living and house their families and feed their families. So cutting those programs is non-starter for us.

SCHAPER: Benjamin says he and other officials do like the emphasis on streamlining the federal environmental review and permitting process. But many Democrats in Congress are already dismissing the Trump infrastructure plan, and several Republicans are cool to elements of it, too. But Mike Friedberg, a former Republican Transportation and Appropriations Committee staffer and now a lobbyist, stresses that this is just a starting point for negotiations.

MIKE FRIEDBERG: You're seeing there's an appetite for fixing structural problems. And as president, he's not an ideologue about this. He wants to get stuff done, you know, with infrastructure.

SCHAPER: So while some are calling the Trump administration's infrastructure plan dead on arrival, Friedberg disagrees, and he's glad the topic is getting attention. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.