May 2017

More than 500 Infrastructure Projects are Pitched to Trump 

States, unions, presidential advisers and consultants flood the White House with proposals. The president's pledge to cut regulations and his condition for funding — "If you have a job that you can't start within 90 days ... it doesn't help us" — risks leaving critical construction and repair behind.

By Tom Scheck
      APM Reports

As President Trump prepares to release a list of projects that could be included in his $1 trillion infrastructure plan, groups are aggressively lobbying to make the cut. Over the past five months, Trump's team has been quietly soliciting requests from across the country, triggering a torrent of proposals.

APM Reports has assembled a previously undisclosed list of the more than 500 project requests covering 50 states from governors, consultants, contractors, unions and advisers through public records requests and interviews.

The costs of many projects range into the billions of dollars, a blunt reminder that upgrading or adding to the nation's infrastructure is an expensive proposition.

Many projects submitted by governors focus on transportation — roads, tunnels and bridges. New York and New Jersey are pushing for a rail tunnel project between New Jersey and New York that could cost as much as $25 billion.

California, on the other hand, wants to rebuild its dams, and 12 states want to bring broadband to their rural areas. Washington wants to rebuild its airport, and Texas wants a waterway improved. Projects such as these have historically been funded by government with the goal of widespread social and economic benefit.

Union leaders, consultants and a campaign adviser to the president are judging a project's value based on different criteria: Does it include private financing? How many jobs would it create? And would its construction go faster if Trump cleared away regulations and sped up permitting approvals? Some of those projects are transmission electricity lines in the Midwest, a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas and a major gas pipeline in Alaska.

And infrastructure consultants are enthusiastically advising investors on how to get noticed when it comes to privatization, and a lot seems in play — airports, health clinics and nursing homes run by the Veterans Administration and low-income housing. In fact, consultants discourage the use of the term "privatization." Instead, they call it "asset reallocation."

While there's bipartisan agreement that there should be a greater national investment in infrastructure, there's sharp disagreement over the financing mechanism and the criteria by which to make choices.

A few Democratic members of Congress have said they support increasing the federal gas tax to help pay for projects. And some Republicans, already lukewarm about Trump's infrastructure plan, are wary of increasing the deficit.
Trump and his advisers are so intent on accelerating the time it takes to get projects built that the president has suggested that no federal funding will be granted unless states and local communities can start a project within a few months.
"If you have a job that you can't start within 90 days, we're not going to give you the money for it because it doesn't help us," Trump said.

Dan Slane, an Ohio real estate developer who advised Trump on infrastructure between Election Day and the inauguration, agrees speed is essential. "He's got to hit some home runs coming out of the box."

Slane recommended 51 projects to White House officials in January that can be done relatively quickly. A focus on speed, Slane says, will give the president credibility among the public and Congress.

Much like Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama, Trump also has mentioned construction building projects as a catalyst to create jobs. "The only way the president is going to create the millions of high paying jobs for blue collar workers is through infrastructure," said Slane.

No matter the criteria, the choices are broad and give the White House great latitude on how to approach infrastructure. 

Reprinted from APM Reports, May 11 edition. 

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