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Trump's Trillion Dollar Pledge to Fix Bridges and Roads Could be Challenging

President Trump has promised to spend up to a trillion dollars rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Experts say it's a tough challenge.
Image: US President Donald J. Trump address Joint Session of Congress
President Donald Trump points after delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool via EPA

President Trump has promised to spend up to a trillion dollars rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

There's little political disagreement that the country's roads, bridges, airports, gas lines and ports need a lot work, all of which could bring much-needed jobs.

Last week, a huge sinkhole in New Jersey swallowed up an SUV. Last month, 200,000 people in California were forced from their homes with the Oroville Dam in danger of breaching.

But paying to repair the nation's infrastructure is a costly challenge.

Trump's "proposal on infrastructure either will produce the kind of infrastructure he's promising or else it will substantially add to the deficit,” said Paul Van De Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Related: Senate Democrats Propose $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Crumbling concrete from aging bridges has been dubbed an infrastructure emergency in the nation’s heartland. The Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati carries twice the 80,000 vehicles it was designed for in 1963. Chunks of concrete from the upper levels fall to the deck below.

Rust under the bridge is “a warning sign for something that's going to come later," said Brent Spence Bridge Chief Engineer Bob Yaeger.

The traffic volume is projected to grow and the only solution, Yaeger said is to build a second bridge right next to it.

"if you're going to go from Michigan to Florida, you're going to travel this bridge."

America’s infrastructure gets a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. One in nine of the nation’s bridges is structurally deficient according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

The country’s aging and decaying subways from New York, to Washington D.C. to San Francisco are little better. And the 50-year-old locks on the nation’s rivers carrying freight and consumer goods are also deeply worn.

Rather than using tax money to pay for big projects like this one, Trump has said he wants to encourage the private sector through tax breaks and maybe a portion of toll revenue.

But budget experts question whether that's enough of an incentive or enough money.

And many infrastructure programs — like internet access for schools — don’t produce money.

The president "has promised very large tax cuts. If you add to that a large infrastructure program as well, that could really balloon the deficit, " Van De Water said adding. “The Trump infrastructure plan is seriously flawed.”

Still, the Trump team has said such proposals could bring more than three million jobs.

And that resonates for workers in the middle America — the same types of workers who helped propel Trump to the presidency.

"It would be mean job security for me. It would mean I could put food on the table for my family," said Gary Connell, a welder with Veritas Steel in Wisconsin.

The company hopes such proposals will help it expand and hire more workers.

"These are small, real town....small town - real people that are looking for opportunities," Kevin Bird, a production manager at Veritas Steel.