June 2017

 

NACE Attends the President's Regulatory Reform Event

By Brian Roberts, PE
      Executive Director

 

As you may have heard, President Trump declared the week of June 5th as Infrastructure Week. We in the infrastructure world were spoiled this year with two infrastructure weeks! The official Infrastructure Week was May 15th with numerous activities, including a series of events held by NACo.

The President held several gatherings around the country to highlight the need for infrastructure investments. I had the opportunity to attend The Roads and Rail Regulatory Reform Event, billed as a listening session, at DOT headquarters. Transportation Secretary Chao and President Trump addressed a number of issues, including rural infrastructure, permitting reform, transformative projects. He had spent the previous 30 minutes meeting with the AASHTO Executive Director and State DOT officials (maybe next time I’ll get invited).

Clearly they discussed the need for project streamlining. With a bit of dramatic flair, the President picked up three very large binders, which I assume were the environmental review documents, and dropped them on the floor. Watch the video

His message was clear—it takes too long to get road projects approved, something that resonates well with our members.

This theme continued throughout his speech. He announced the creation of a council that will guide project sponsors through the permitting process, as well as an online dashboard for the public to track those projects and a new office within the Council on Environmental Quality.According to Politico, this “will be a traffic cop on the streamlining beat.”

In all fairness, these initiatives were actually established under MAP-21 and the FAST Act, which established the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, but it’s still encouraging to hear the President speak of them with enthusiasm.

Perhaps the most intriguing element of the week was in the White House blog. According to Politico, “There was one completely new bit of information on the $1 trillion infrastructure plan—but you might have missed it because it was buried at the bottom of a White House blog post—giving a glimpse into how Trump wants the $200 billion of direct federal investment to be spent.

"Transformative projects" would get $15 billion; local governments, $100 billion; and rural areas, $25 billion. The other $60 billion isn't accounted for. That’s extremely encouraging since locals are rarely mentioned in funding packages.

We clearly have an opportunity here with streamlining. This goes back at least to Sue Miller’s NACE Presidency where she established the Streamlining Task Force in 2009. This is near and dear to our hearts and with the efforts of our Legislative Committee and NACo’s activities with the White House, it is quite possible that we will see success.

Have a safe and happy summer!

Read more on the President’s permit reform event.

 

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