A bridge repair in Kentucky, a subway extension in New York and the construction of a National Research Lab for Infrastructure in Ohio are among 50 projects highlighted as priorities last month by the Trump transition team.
Dated 13 December 2016, the list of projects was presented to the National Governors Association. It identifies 35 of the 50 projects as having some kind of revenue stream, though no details are given. The NGA provided a copy of the list to Infrastructure Investor, but noted that it is “not comprehensive”.
“I don’t think there are really any surprises on this list,” Joseph Kane, a senior research analyst and associate fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told Infrastructure Investor. “On the surface, there seems to be quite a bit of geographic diversity represented here, but the overarching emphasis continues to be, not surprisingly, on the transportation projects.”
A more detailed 52-page document with an almost identical list of projects was published by McClatchy’s Kansas City Star, which was also the first to report on the NGA’s list. This longer document includes cost estimates for each project and states that half the funding will come from private investment. The document has been circulated within the congressional and business communities, according to McClatchy. It was not given to the NGA, a spokeswoman for the organisation told Infrastructure Investor.
In a 16 December letter to the NGA’s Washington representatives from each state, the shorter list is attached and described as containing “project ideas being vetted”. The letter noted that the transition team was seeking three to five project suggestions from each state, and said the initial spend on the projects for 2017 was expected to be $150 billion. The letter goes on to note that there will be a more formal process at a later date. The NGA is still collecting these responses and has not made that list public, according to the NGA spokeswoman.
During his campaign, Trump vowed to spend between $500 billion and $1 trillion on infrastructure, a rare point of bipartisan consensus. A proposal released by two of Trump’s policy advisors, Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, two weeks before the election promoted incentivising investment through tax credits and suggested $167 billion in government spending could be leveraged into $1 trillion in total infrastructure investment.
If the document describing 50 percent private investment did in fact originate with the administration, it suggests a greater role for government spending than envisioned in the Ross-Navarro plan. Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have remained wary about the prospect of a bill relying heavily on federal spending.
The publication of the list came the same day Senate Democrats unveiled their own $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which would rely on direct federal spending. But while competing plans have kept infrastructure in the headlines, both sides are far from producing any kind of detailed legislation, and priorities such as healthcare, immigration and tax reform may end up pushing infrastructure to the back burner.
“Finding a way to wedge in an ambitious infrastructure plan like this will probably be very difficult in the first 100 days, let alone the first 200 days, and the reality of that probably is being reflected a bit in the plans that are being put forward,” noted Kane. “It’s going to require a complex web of interactions.”