Making America’s infrastructure great again will take lots of time and money
In the months leading up to the presidential election, the soon-to-be-elected Donald Trump shared that he planned to inject $1 trillion into the nation’s ailing roads, bridges and airports.
Soon after President Trump moved into the White House, Senate Democrats released a $1 trillion infrastructure ten-year plan to fix roads, bridges, broadband networks, VA hospitals and schools. Democratic lawmakers said the plan would create 15 million jobs. They were holding Trump to his promise.
In the days following, Trump put together a list of 50 emergency and national security infrastructure projects across the United States that came with a price tag of $137.5 billion. A similar list was shared with the National Governors Association (NGA) in December and they were asked to get feedback about the document from each state. A request was also made to governors to submit between three and five state projects that could also be worthy of making the high-priority infrastructure list.
On Feb. 8 the NGA replied to Trump’s request with a list of 428 shovel-ready projects from 49 states and territories. The list included transportation, water, energy and emergency-response projects. Strategic Partnerships, Inc., reached out to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and a spokesperson from the state agency shared that at this point, Texas did not submit a list of prioritized projects to the federal government for funding.
But thanks to an overwhelming approval in 2015 for Proposition 7, TxDOT may have a little more than pocket change for their annual projects. This constitutional amendment dedicates portions of revenue from the state’s general sales and use tax, as well as from the motor vehicle sales and rental tax to the State Highway Fund for non-tolled projects.
Prior to the 84th Legislative Session, TxDOT identified a great need for funding to support state transportation projects. Gov. Greg Abbott even made funding for TxDOT one of his emergency items.
Proposition 7 states that beginning in 2017, fiscal year 2018, if state sales tax revenue exceeds $28 billion in a fiscal year, the next $2.5 billion of revenue will be directed to the State Highway Fund. Beginning in September 2019, fiscal year 2020, if state motor vehicle sales and rental tax revenue exceeds $5 billion in a fiscal year, 35 percent of the amount in excess of $5 billion will go to the State Highway Fund.
View TxDOT’s 2016-2017 Transportation Funding in Texas report here.
The question now is which states submitted a list to the NGA? Two days after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled his new state budget proposal that calls for more state funds to fix roads and aging infrastructure, he sent a list of nine projects that are in need of federal assistance. The top priority for Snyder is to construct an additional Soo Lock in Sault Ste. Marie. If Michigan’s Poe Lock and Soo Locks had an unscheduled shutdown due to maintenance, it could shutter the U.S. steel, automotive and appliance sectors.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley sent a list with his state’s top priority being an $850 million new bridge project and expansion of the Interstate 10 Bayway in coastal Alabama. Other projects on the list included the Birmingham area’s Northern Beltline, a 52-mile bypass that carries a $5.2 billion price-tag; and highway projects in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery counties.
California Gov. Jerry Brown’s list, unfortunately, did not include the Oroville Dam, California’s second-largest reservoir that was crippled last week when its primary emergency spillway suffered major erosion and critical damage from heavy rains and flooding. California has a $136 billion backlog of much-needed repairs on state highways and local roads. There were 51 projects submitted by Brown including building an early-warning earthquake system and widening and replacing interchanges of the 710 Freeway serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown asked for major levee improvements throughout the state and to relieve congestion on I-205 and OR-217. Brown also requested $1 billion for seismic improvements to bridges and roads, as well as billions to upgrade the state’s water infrastructure in cities and rural areas. She also requested the installation of fiber internet in rural Oregon and improvements to I-5 in South Salem and Albany.
Colorado’s high priority infrastructure list includes adding two urgent projects- an express lane heading west into the mountains on I-70 and adding capacity lanes along the northern and southern parts of I-25. It also includes water projects and one to expand rural broadband.
Other state submissions included a $65 million proposal to widen Interstate 10 across Louisiana to Texas, a $2 billion plan to reconstruct 200 miles of Interstate 70 in Missouri and a $7 billion light rail expansion in Washington state.
An analysis of federal highway data was recently released by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. The report found that cars, trucks, and school buses cross almost 56,000 structurally compromised bridges some 185 million times each day.
The ARTBA review of data provided to the Federal Highway Administration by state transportation departments show that 28% of U.S. highway bridges are at least 50 years old and have never had any major reconstruction work.
There is a lot of work to be done to make America’s infrastructure great again. What will be Trump’s next move on his trillion dollar infrastructure promise? As of Feb. 9, Trump has signed 12 executive orders. On Jan. 24, Trump signed his second executive order, Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects, which allows states and federal agencies to request that specific projects receive a high priority infrastructure designation from the Chairman of the White House Council On Environmental Quality. The chairman would then decide if a project is “high priority” within 30 days of the request. If the project is deemed to be a “high priority,” then the project would undergo an expedited environmental review and approval process.
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