As new president Donald Trump and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao settle into their first weeks in office, the transportation industry is looking for them to make good on promises to improve infrastructure across the country. President Trump committed to spending some $1 trillion over 10 years on much-needed improvements as his first economic promise as president-elect. "We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," Trump pledged. "We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it."
However, some skeptics point out that Trump never specified where the budget for this infrastructure overhaul would come from, simply citing “public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives.” Though, no matter how much funding comes from public sources, Congress will have to work through the legislative details.
As a result, getting Congressional leadership on board with his plan will have to be a first priority, and that won’t be easy, given their historic reluctance to increase spending. Matt Jeanneret, executive director of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), explained, “Now it’s going to be his job to make the Republican leadership in the House and Senate make it their priority to have [the improvements] happen early in 2017.”
Still others point out that $1 trillion over 10 years is simply not enough. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the U.S. needs to invest $3.6 trillion into its national infrastructure by 2020 just to get the country up to where it theoretically should be given its size and scope.
Many in the transportation industry are hopeful and have come out in full support of the plan, recognizing that infrastructure improvements have been on the national agenda for years. "It's refreshing that [infrastructure improvement] is in the forefront of the national spotlight and national dialogue. It has been a bipartisan subject for a number of election cycles," said Bill Sandbrook, president and CEO of U.S. Concrete.
It seems clear that no matter how small or large the improvements, they will be a positive force in the transportation industry. FedEx Freight President and CEO Michael L. Ducker explained that the nation’s aging highways are putting a damper on U.S. trade, but Trump’s plan may be exactly what’s needed to breathe new life into the industry.