State of the Union Must Address Infrastructure Funding: Industry

By Shaun Courtney

A bipartisan infrastructure bill with real investment behind it should be a key focus of the president’s State of the Union address, transportation Democrats and infrastructure-related industry groups said.

President Donald Trump told a group of mayors that his Jan. 30 address will include a proposal for $1.7 trillion in infrastructure investment, but the White House has yet to lay out a specific approach to finance the plan. Industry groups have written op-eds and issued new reports to draw attention to the need for infrastructure investment.

The state of American bridges is the focus of a new report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), finding that there is the equivalent of one “structurally deficient”-rated bridge, on average, for every 27 miles of our major highway network.

“An infrastructure package aimed at modernizing the Interstate System would have both short- and long-term positive effects on the U.S. economy,” Alison Premo Black, chief economist for ARTBA, said in a statement in advance of the State of the Union.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also called on the president to make infrastructure a priority.

“President Trump campaigned on and won the election, in part, on this promise, and he has kept the pressure on lawmakers to build the best infrastructure in the world,” David Farr, chairman and CEO of Emerson and NAM Board Chair, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill. “So why not finally do something about this important issue in 2018?”

Democrats Wary

But Democrats in Congress worry that the details floated about Trump’s plan thus far don’t do enough to invest in rebuilding America.

“I want a plan that strengthens the Federal commitment to our national transportation network by providing sustainable, long-term funding, and filling the hole in the Highway Trust Fund,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a statement Jan. 29.

DeFazio and other Democrats are wary that the administration’s plan will focus too much on regulatory reduction and too little on direct federal spending.

A leaked White House “Funding Principles” document obtained by Bloomberg Government and other media Jan. 22 didn’t contain any details on how much funding would be available or where it would come from. The White House has long touted a $200 billion direct federal investment in infrastructure.

The document largely hewed to talking points key administration officials such as DJ Gribbin, special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy, have used in recent months, including calling for greater participation by states and more private investment in infrastructure through mechanisms like tolls.

“If this is their plan, the administration is going to have a very tough time finding enough Republicans and Democrats to support it,” DeFazio said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shaun Courtney in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at

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