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Trump infrastructure plan: Spur investment, cut permitting, improve training

President Donald Trump’s formal infrastructure proposal hinges on four basic principals: stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending through a 10-year, $200-billion federal commitment; shorten project permitting windows; invest in rural transportation, environmental and related public works; and, improve training to attract qualified workers to the trades.

The White House’s 53-page “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America” is an opening bid to further House of Representatives and Senate negotiations on how to meet administration objectives and address financing measures, much like the reform-driven Tax Cuts & Jobs Act signed in late 2017. At least six House and five Senate committees will consider “Rebuilding Infrastructure” elements, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Government Affairs staff noted in a memo early last month.

“It’s a welcomed and necessary way to start a very overdue conversation. We look forward to more in-depth conversations with Congress [and] urge lawmakers to create a robust and long-term solution to our country’s chronically underfunded infrastructure,” said National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association CEO Michael Johnson. “To meet the president’s goal, NSSGA supports a wide variety of funding options, especially shoring up the Highway Trust Fund.”

The White House plan calls for a) $100 billion in grants to be distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency; b) $50 billion in rural project grants; and, c) $20 billion for transformative projects that could spawn public-private partnerships. Project sponsors, states and agencies would request funds for specific needs. Concurrent with the plan, White House is drafting a memo to 17 federal agencies seeking to speed up the time it takes to secure infrastructure project environmental permits.

INFRASTRUCTURE TRENDS

Following President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, where he urged Congress to pass a bill funding the federal government’s share of a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan outlined the following week, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers issued 10 predictions for 2018. They are based on a TRC Companies’ report examining federal and state government agency investments in aging infrastructure and a smarter, more balanced utility grid. The following trends will affect how the construction industry conducts business and goes to market in the year ahead and beyond, notes TRC, an engineering, environmental consulting and construction management services firm:

  • Spending will intensify as a result of comprehensive federal infrastructure legislation potentially bankrolling projects both big and small across the country.
  • States will rely on alternative approaches to planning and construction in order to pay for projects. This could include more design/build transportation contracts or public-private partnerships.
  • A project boom in some states will prompt labor shortages across the board. This will in turn lead to delays for many companies if they don’t plan for workforce challenges.
  • Investment in natural gas projects will be tempered by low prices.