In Case There Was Any Doubt, Trump’s Infrastructure “Plan” Going Nowhere

Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump was supposed to give a boring speech about infrastructure this week. U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao was there. So was a flow chart that the president held up against her to demonstrate federal red tape, or something. Trump can’t resist props.

But even more than that, he can’t resist defending neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and so a press event about infrastructure became a testament to the president’s abhorrent views on race.

Trump’s comments equating the racist mob in Charlottesville to counter-protesters prompted a wave of resignations from his manufacturing council, leading him to disband it to prevent further humiliation.

Then he preemptively disbanded a number of other advisory groups, and yesterday Bloomberg reported that one of the casualties is the president’s infrastructure council.

Trump’s inability to stage a mere press conference on infrastructure and the dissolution of his advisory council drive home what has been clear for a long time: His infrastructure plan is going nowhere.

I use the term “plan” loosely because it’s more like the shell of an idea than a set of actual policies. A big number has been tossed around — $1 trillion. And there’s been a lot of vague talk about tax breaks and private financing of infrastructure projects. It never really got more specific than that.

The fact that any momentum for Trump’s infrastructure plan has completely dissipated is good news for cities and the climate. All signs were pointing to a sprawl-inducing disaster.

Trump’s DOT is already weakening rules to prevent climate change. His budget proposals have attacked transit and programs that support better walking and biking infrastructure. Even the federal freight program is being retooled to encourage sprawl.

Early on, leading Democrats said they were inclined to work with Trump on infrastructure. It’s hard to see how those negotiations would have turned out better than the status quo, when the White House’s starting point was likely to be a massive toll road bonanza.

Now that’s all moot, and America’s transportation systems are better off for it.

20 thoughts on In Case There Was Any Doubt, Trump’s Infrastructure “Plan” Going Nowhere

  1. The less the federal government is involved, the better for cities. Just consider what the impact of federal intervention in the housing market has been.

    Detroit Mayor “Duggan quoted from a 1934 FHA manual that instructed mortgage bankers that “incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.” The manual also instructed housing appraisers to “predict the probability of the location being invaded by … incompatible racial and social groups.”

    “If you were adjacent to a minority area, your appraisal got downgraded,” Duggan said.

    “And those lower appraisals added to the flight as whites — and eventually middle-class blacks — left the city for suburbs, where more than half of the mortgages for new construction were subsidized by the FHA.”

    “There was a conscious federal policy that discarded what was left behind and subsidized the move to the suburbs,” Duggan said, later adding: “This is our history, and it’s something we still have to overcome.”

    As for the Trump Administration, it is going better than expected. Don’t ask what I expected. Eight months down…

  2. Trump’s terrible infrastructure “plan” got derailed when he went off-topic and everyone focused on that. Good riddance to his infrastructure “plan”.

  3. I’m still worried that he’s going to do his best to cut corners and deals for poorly conceived highway projects. I just hope that laws put in place to protect the environment like Environmental Impact Statements slow him down. His infrastructure plan would be an environmental disaster.

  4. Spending a $trillion on infrastructure was the one Trump idea that had the most merit.

    The problem lies with Congress, not the White House. While I may be (generally) fiscally conservative I don’t look at making 30-year investments the same as every-year spending. Sad that infrastructure investment is brushed aside for the cacophony of politics (on both sides).

  5. You assume all states are incompetent? For me, coming from a state (Colorado) that needs the money much more than nanny oversight, I’d say the value of endless regulations are greatly exaggerated.

  6. The value of infrastructure investment should be right up there with defense spending at the top of the food chain. There’s a boatload of transit project counting on federal $’s to move forward. Don’t be confused by the noise coming from the Heritage Foundation for what Congress is likely to pass.

  7. Well, you’ve done it. What was once a fine transportation policy blog has turned into a biased, hollow shell of its former self. I will never visit this website again. What rubbish.

    Farewell, Streetsblog. Keep up the fine insights.

  8. Los Angeles County will have a large increase in transportation infrastructure by February of 2018. There is an additional half-cent sales tax in the county for transportation, which has no ending date, that was passed by 71% of voters when Trump was elected. This started to be collected at the beginning of July. The transportation county wide half-cent sales that voters approved when Obama was elected in 2008 had its 2035 ending date extended indefinitely when Trump was elected. The state legislature voted to add twelve more cents of motor fuel tax and additional fees for vehicle registration to make repairs to roads and bridges. All of these add up to a lot more investment in transportation infrastructure both for the entire state and in LA County.

  9. Trumps busy getting the wall built. That should be finished by the time his term is finished. He’ll set his sites on building the wall around the US for his next term. That would be used to keep all the terrorists out and the ocean from flooding our coast.

  10. Hmmm…. not so sure this applies to today. Yes, the interstate system is still a major driving force to low density development and neighborhood isolation but federal money today is also being mandated for transportation alternatives which go far beyond what states would independently allocate, IMO. How many times have we seen a bike lane, a pedestrian improvement, a mass transit expansion being undertaken only due to the grants made available by the fed.

    That being said, Trump administration has no inclination to support this funding in the future. As an irony to your above statement, it will be “states’ independence” which will be touted as the reason to remove these funding sources.

  11. How many times have we seen a bike lane, a pedestrian improvement, a mass transit expansion being undertaken only due to the grants made available by the fed.

    Why aren’t those communities willing to put their own money into these projects, especially the simpler ones like bike lanes?

  12. This list is long. To surmise I would say ‘tyranny of the majority’ It is often the federal dollars made available which put these improvements over the top when local decisions are being made.

  13. Transportation agencies will need to be more self-reliant, such as the below mentioned Los Angeles County sales tax measures to build transit (and roads) throughout the county.

    TIFIA loans are still available for road expansions, with a twist though: road users will have to pay for the new toll lanes, as shown by Orange County and Riverside County express lane projects in Southern Califonia that received these low interest loans.

    The irony is that it is just these type of revenue-earning projects that would have been funded by Trump’s plan. In Virginia, private-activity bonds are helping to finance the 395 Express Lanes being built by a public-private partnership largely without public funds, unlike the aforementioned California express lane projects that are driven by county congestion management agencies and county sales tax dollars.

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