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Fixing America’s Crumbling Infrastructure

February 23, 2019 by HJ Mai
City of Minneapolis plow clears snow from a Olson Highway Service Road in Minneapolis.

In his 2018 State of the Union address, U.S. President Donald Trump promised the American people “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land,” but even back then reports already suggested that the president “hates” part of the infrastructure plan he would unveil only days later.

As a presidential candidate, Trump proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, the figure increased to $1.5 trillion once he entered the White House, but the actual $200 billion plan unveiled in February 2018 falls drastically short of the president’s promises. The intent of the legislative measure to spur up to $1.3 trillion in private investments has been questioned by the president himself.

The infrastructure plan put forward by the administration includes $100 billion in direct grants to local governments; $50 billion for projects in rural areas; $20 million for projects of “national significance”; and $30 billion for existing infrastructure programs.

Earlier this year, media reports claimed that the White House is not giving up on pursuing a “significant” infrastructure initiative, and the country is in dire need of such an investment. America’s infrastructure received a D+ grade in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, which is published every four years.

The ASCE estimates that the U.S. will need to invest close to $4.6 trillion by 2025 to improve the state of the country’s roads, bridges, dams, airports and schools, among other things. While Democrats and Republicans signaled their willingness to work together on the issue of infrastructure, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., clarified in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that any infrastructure bill must address climate change to win his party’s support.

“President Trump is again signaling that infrastructure could be an area of compromise. We agree, but if the president wanted to earn Democratic support in the Senate, any infrastructure bill would have to include policies and funding that help transition our country to a clean-energy economy and mitigate the risks the United States already faces from climate change,” Schumer wrote in December.

However, instead of solving America’s infrastructure crisis the president has lashed out at one of the country’s most ambitious transportation projects: California’s high-speed rail project. Following last week’s announcement by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that the proposed San Francisco-San Diego rail project would be substantially scaled back and only serve the state’s Central Valley, the Trump administration intends to cancel a $929 million federal grant for the troubled project. It also wants to reclaim another $2.5 billion in federal funds already spent by California on the $77 billion project.

Trump, who called the project a “green disaster,” demanded that the state return billions of federal dollars.

“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now,” Trump said in a tweet.

With Trump’s current proposal hardly allocating any money for new infrastructure investment, who will rebuild America? If you asked the New York Times, it will have to be Democrats. “Their proposed Green New Deal is deliberately short on specifics, but its clear thrust is toward a revival of the American tradition of public investment in the public interest,” the paper wrote.

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