In his State of the Union address last night, President Donald Trump spoke often of the need for unity and bipartisanship. One area that has long seemed ripe for actual bipartisan cooperation is infrastructure. Unfortunately, Trump barely mentioned that in his speech — and what little he said was woefully short on details.
There is widespread agreement that the nation has tremendous and pressing infrastructure needs. We need to repair and improve critical infrastructure like bridges, roads, rail, transit, broadband and water and sewer systems.
In the past, Trump has made grand promises about infrastructure, pitching more than a trillion dollars in spending. His actual proposal fell far short. Focusing on public-private partnerships and shifting much of the financial burden to states, he previously proposed relatively little additional federal spending. In his speech last night, Trump offered no specific funding proposals whatsoever.
Trump’s proposals are not just monetarily inadequate. America needs to make substantial investments in infrastructure, but those investments need to be well thought out and targeted toward improvements that strengthen all communities, protect public health, build resiliency, cut pollution, and help address the climate crisis.
For example, we should invest in cleaner transportation infrastructure like mass transit and rail rather than add more highway lanes that will soon become congested. And we should use taxpayer dollars more efficiently by adopting a “fix it first” approach that focuses on bringing existing infrastructure to a state of good repair.
Trump’s earlier infrastructure proposal treated environmental protection measures and public-input requirements as hindrances to rebuilding infrastructure. In fact, public input and consideration of the impacts of construction, as well as the investigation of alternative approaches, helps ensure the best use of taxpayers’ dollars. Any infrastructure package should strengthen, rather than weaken, environmental protection and community input.
The lack of specifics in the State of the Union address puts the ball squarely in Congress’ court. SELC will be weighing in and closely monitoring legislative hearings and discussions to promote a meaningful infrastructure package that also cuts pollution and increases climate resilience.