Passing Zone

Infrastructure Plan: Here’s Hoping Action Will Speak Louder than Words

Blog Commentary by David Cullen, Executive Editor

March 1, 2018

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Secretary Chao addressing attendees of AASHTO meeting in Washington on Feb. 28. Photo: via Twitter @USDOT 
Secretary Chao addressing attendees of AASHTO meeting in Washington on Feb. 28. Photo: via Twitter @USDOT

When it comes to the glacially swift rollout of President Trump’s infrastructure plan (now under way for well over a year), it can be perhaps be said, to paraphrase Winston Churchill broadly, that never before has so little been said to so many about so much.

To be sure, it is becoming increasingly hard for me to grasp why the plan has not been taken up yet by Congress. Especially given that the President's own party holds the majority in both chambers, not to mention that infrastructure funding is widely regarded as a bipartisan element of responsible governance by most Republicans and Democrats.

Consider the gist of the latest policy speech given by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who is charged with selling the $1.5 trillion invest-and-incentivize plan on Capitol Hill. Chao, who has teased parts of the plan and hinted at other aspects of it in various speeches she has made over the course of the past year, threw a fresh tidbit out on Feb. 28.

Addressing attendees of an American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials meeting in Washington, DC as the keynote speaker, she advised that a new White House publication was due out soon that promises to present “background on the plan.” And, yes, that wording screamed “vague” to me as well.

Chao described the administration's overall plan as a “comprehensive infrastructure proposal… it is broad, ambitious, and has ignited a necessary debate throughout the nation and in the Congress on infrastructure priorities and processes.”

We’ve all heard that before.  But the DOT Secretary did make a point that those who don’t live and breathe policy might need to hear. Pointing out that the Trump plan is “a 10-year investment to modernize our country’s infrastructure assets,” Chao pointed out that it is “comprehensive and separate from a reauthorization package” that typically covers a shorter timeframe.

Chao reiterated that Trump’s goal is to “stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment, which includes a minimum of $200 billion in direct federal funding.  The guiding principles are to use federal dollars as seed money to incentivize infrastructure investment; provide for the needs of rural communities; streamline permitting and speed up project delivery; and reduce unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations.” 

Getting a tad more specific, she said “a key element of the proposal is to empower decision-making at the state and local level, who know best the infrastructure needs of their communities. Half of the new infrastructure funds would go towards incentivizing new state and local investments in infrastructure. A quarter of the Federal funds will be dedicated to addressing rural infrastructure needs, as prioritized by state and local leaders.”

Hitting the point about the importance of local control yet harder, she noted that the federal government “only owns about 10% of our country’s infrastructure, and contributes about 14% of total infrastructure spending.  The rest is owned and funded by state and local governments.  So, giving decision-making power back to local communities makes a lot of sense.”

Perhaps. But many if not all in trucking-- not to mention in American business in general and the vast majority of  the Members of Congress belonging to both major parties-- might beg to differ, arguing that it is the federal government that has the constitutional duty to ensure the free flow of commerce.

On top of that, if the federal government is entrusted with the overarching promise of affording us all life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, doesn’t that mean it should be making sure there are miles and miles of fully funded and good and safe roads and bridges for us to drive upon?


  1. 1. Greg Goss [ March 02, 2018 @ 05:00AM ]

    it's unfortunate that we have to hear the liberal slant, even in trucking magazine. The opening statement, glacially swift ( now under way for over a year. Trump was just inaugurated a little over a year ago, and being fought from every angle by the left ever since. And yet, he's accomplished more in one year than Obama accomplished in 8 years. Let's talk about states taking responsibility. Pennsylvania left their infrastructure, specifically bridges go into a dramatic state of disrepair and what did they do? They raised the state fuel tax and took care of their state. States shouldn't expect the federal government to solve all of their problems.

  2. 2. Dave Lovelace [ March 02, 2018 @ 08:11AM ]

    Like Greg said, the media is so slanted toward the left that it has to slant every action by this administration in a negative light. Not one president has addressed our infrastructure needs the way Tump has since Eisenhower. So this glacial pace comment tipped the scale for me to cancel y subscription to HDT. In these days its easy to get the info I need in a lot of places beside this place.

  3. 3. Richard Davis [ March 02, 2018 @ 03:11PM ]

    Well both Greg and Dave, that is Fox news talking, word for word. At least you people that listen to only Fox news, try changing some of the words around. I guess you don't have enough sense to do that though or maybe you would. Trump has done nothing but give the rich a tax cut and has added 3+ trillion dollars to the deficit in 1 year. We still have Obama-care { which is a good thing }, just a lie from Trump about doing away with it. Now!!! Who is going to pay for the " WALL "???? Does Fox ever tell their viewers that the Republicans/ Trump have control over both houses? That means they can do just about anything they want to do. Yes, Dave, Trump is addressing our infrastructure, he is going to privatize the roads. That means more " TOLL's " which means more money/taxes. Did Fox tell it's viewers that Obama wanted to put 60 billion in infrastructure, which the Republicans filibustered and it was going to be paid for by taking away tax breaks from companies that sent their factories over seas? Not in " TOLL " roads. Keep watching Fox. Your intelligence is just spewing-out.

  4. 4. Clinton Stubbs [ March 07, 2018 @ 03:10PM ]

    The infrastructure plan will take time to roll out for the simple reason of politics. I'm neither party but I don't see the reason why this is being stopped. Yes the federal government is partly responsible for the roads and railways but the states and local governments are too. The media is way too harsh to the president. I think that our nation needs to care for itself and part of that is maintaining the roads for interstate commerce and travel. Instead of worrying about caring for illegal immigrants, the focus should be on legal American citizens and how people can be able to care for themselves and their families and part of that is having good to well paying jobs available to everyone. Manage what is already taken in. Stop raising taxes on everything.

  5. 5. jimmy Penn [ March 12, 2018 @ 11:10PM ]

    Hey idiot Richard Davis you are the brainwashed liberal idiot. Pull your head out of that dark stinky spot and learn the TRUTH. Typical liberal idiots who THINK they are smarter than the rest, brainwashed idiots who start throwing "RACIAL" shit at people every time they get pissed and dont like what a conservative says or does.

    Yes the story is slanted by a liberal of course. Fox news is the most fair and balanced news. THATS A FACT SEARCH IT DUMMY.

    Over 90% of ALL news on Trump the past year from the liberal idiot news agencies have been negative. How in the F$%k can you say thats even close to fair you liberal idiot? Thats truly brainwashing the american people.

  6. 6. Richard Davis [ March 15, 2018 @ 03:24PM ]

    Boy!!!! jimmy Penn, you are a little touchy aren't you? How did you get race out of what I said? I take it you are a Fox so-called news viewer. Because that is exactly what they would have said. You mentioned nothing about the topic we were on, infrastructure, another thing Fox does, talk about something else. You are the IDIOT, if you believe that Fox is fair and balanced or anything you just said. Fox is the ALTERNATIVE news station. The place you go if you want something other than the truth. You know, like K. Conway said the Trump circus/freak-show does. She said they give the ALTERNATIVE FACTS out. Something other than the truth, that's what that means. So you think your comrade Trump, tells the truth. You are the IDIOT/MORON.


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David Cullen

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Executive Editor David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.


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