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Trump pledges to fix infrastructure but $200bn plan falls well short

The crippled spillway of Oroville Dam in California. A hole formed in the spillway last year, allowing 55,000 cubic feet of water per second to flow down the slope – nearly causing disaster.
The crippled spillway of Oroville Dam in California. A hole formed in the spillway last year, allowing 55,000 cubic feet of water per second to flow down the slope – nearly causing disaster. Photograph: Paul Kitagaki Jr./AP

Donald Trump unveiled a $200bn plan to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure – a plan that falls woefully short of the trillions civil engineers say is needed to rebuild the country’s tattered backbone and is likely to face intense opposition from Democrats and Republicans.

Trump said in a statement: “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land. And we will do it with American heart, and American hands, and American grit.”

He said the plans constituted “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history”.

Trump has earmarked $200bn in federal funds to encourage states, cities and private enterprise to rebuild the nation’s dams, roads, bridges, airports and other essential infrastructure. The aim is to encourage $1tn of extra investment.

Trump campaigned on the need infrastructure reform, promising to spend “big” on infrastructure and consistently touted his record as a builder.

But the promised federal funds are a fraction of the $2tn that the American Society of Civil Engineers says is needed to repair US infrastructure. Last year, the ASCE gave the US’s infrastructure a D+ grade and said failure to act would cost the US economy $4tn by 2025.

The plan is also likely to run into opposition in Congress. There is widespread support for public works spending among Democrats, but little appetite to work with Trump. House Democrats have already unveiled an alternative plan that would inject $1tn in direct federal spending – five times what Trump will propose – into infrastructure.

Trump is likely to face opposition, too, from fiscally conservative Republicans, especially following the passage of last year’s $1.5tn tax cut plan and last week’s budget agreement, which critics charge will add another $420bn to the national debt.

Trump appeared to acknowledge on Monday that the infrastructure plan may not pass. At a press conference, he said the plan was not as important as military spending or the tax cuts he passed in December.

“What was very important to me was the military; what was very important to me was the tax cuts; and what was very important to me was regulation. This is of great importance, but it’s not nearly of that category because the states will have to do it themselves if we don’t do it,” he said.

On Monday, the White House also released its latest budget plan – a plan somewhat neutered by the Senate’s passing of a two-year budget deal last week. Trump’s budget proposes more than $23bn for border security and immigration enforcement and $13bn to address America’s opioid addiction crisis, but is suggestive: Congress will set spending levels.

The president will meet delegates from both sides of Congress this week to push his plan this week. On Monday morning on Twitter he promoted the project.

But it is not the first time that Trump has promised a “big week for infrastructure”. In August, Trump launched an “infrastructure week” that was quickly derailed by a press conference where the he blamed “both sides” for the fatal violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This article titled "Trump pledges to fix infrastructure but $200bn plan falls well short" was written by Dominic Rushe in New York, for theguardian.com on Monday 12 February 2018 06.08pm

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