The Promise: Invest In and Improve America's Infrastructure

President Donald Trump promised to spend big on American infrastructure, vowing a $1 trillion dollar investment —largely through tax cuts aimed at securing private financing — over ten years. These kind of investments are usually hugely popular with Democrats who support using federal funds for these projects, while Republicans shy from the spending. 

We'll watch to see if the parties can compromise on meaningful infrastructure reform, or whether tax cuts result in symbolic infrastructure investments from private businesses. 

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Trump Unwinds Regulations, but Overshadows Efforts With Controversy

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday designed to speed up construction of infrastructure projects by eliminating portions of the federal permitting process, like an Obama-era mandate aimed at protecting future infrastructure from rising seawaters, and streamlining others.

Holding up a flow chart that he said showed a lengthy highway approval process — which could take 20 years — the president said his order would bring the process down to less than two years.

“This is going to happen quickly. That’s what I’m signing today,” he said, according to a White House transcript.

The news of the executive order was buried quickly when the president provoked widespread controversy with remarks about the violence in Charlottesville that were condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum and praised by white nationalists.

Senate Ignores Trump's FAA Privatization Push

After the White House’s Infrastructure Week, which featured speeches and non-binding letters but no more details on Trump's infrastructure policy, the president had just one concrete plan on the table: Privatizing the Federal Aviation Administration.

In a ceremony at the White House, Trump announced that he would push for turning the FAA into a nonprofit private corporation

"It's about time," Trump said on Monday before signing a letter outlining the plan, adding that the change would herald an "air travel revolution."

The Senate, however, passed on Trump's plan — at least for now. It approved legislation last Thursday that would keep the FAA as a federal agency, while demanding greater accountability and adding new protections and funding.

During 'Infrastructure Week,' Trump Administration Teases Plan, Again

Two weeks after President Donald Trump said his infrastructure plan was coming in two to three weeks, his secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, issued the same tease: Stay tuned for a few more weeks. 

Speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored “Infrastructure Week” event, Chao said the plan would call for $200 billion in taxpayer funds to spur outside dollars through private-public partnerships.

"These funds will be used to leverage $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years," Chao said according to the Associated Press, noting that the tax dollars would be offset by unspecified savings to keep from adding to the national debt.

While infrastructure is hardly the sexiest topic, there was considerable buzz around the event, with Twitter users jumping on the trending hashtag suggesting projects ripe for infrastructure investment, including a slew of tweets advocating building a wall on the southern border.

The $200 billion is the same number the White House budget director earmarked for infrastructure investment last month.

“We’re certainly going to spend some money,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said then.

Donald Trump Wants to Rebuild America? Here Are 8 Places to Start

Report: Puerto Rico's Drinking Water at Brink of Crisis

100 Days In: How's Trump Doing on Infrastructure?

Status: Little action

The White House has not yet rolled out a plan to rebuild what Trump calls America’s “crumbling” infrastructure.

The president appointed a special assistant of infrastructure with D.J. Gribbin, who has a history brokering deals between private investors and governments seeking infrastructure investment, the very kind of deal Trump says is key to funding reform without growing the deficit. Congressional leaders and infrastructure experts say they’re unsure just how feasible such funding mechanisms are; domestically, the nation has seen both successes and failures arise from such partnerships.

Trump's only action to date on an infrastructure project is his approval of permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. With that, Trump made good on one campaign promise while reneging on another: The Keystone XL pipeline won’t have to use American steel in construction, despite a White House order mandating pipelines do so.

Jacob Soboroff
Aarne Heikkila

How Trump's Promise to Increase Infrastructure Spending Would Help One City

Trump Building Plan: How One Public-Private Deal Hit a Bumpy Road

Trump Building Plan: This Public-Private Deal Is a Green Jewel

Trump Breaks His 'Buy American' Promise on Keystone