It’s not much of a secret that the United States’ infrastructure has seen better days. Take a drive in virtually any part of the country and you’ll see crumbling bridges, roads in terrible condition, outdated airports and suboptimal waterways. In his January State of the Union address, President Donald Trump addressed this issue, including calling on Congress to deliver a $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment.
This 53-page document lays out President Trump’s vision for rebuilding infrastructure, using $200 billion in federal money, along with state and local taxes and private investment.
Half of the federal money would be delivered to local government in the form of incentives; another $20 billion will go to “projects of national significance,” including New York’s Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River.
An additional $50 billion is allocated for rural block grants, which will be distributed among states using a formula based on rural road miles and rural population. This money can be spent on a variety of projects including transportation, broadband, power and water, at each state’s discretion.
The rest of the funding will be used to support other infrastructure-related projects, including existing loan programs.
The administration hopes this plan will reduce expenses and shorten the time of federal permits and reviews by as much as 80%. It seeks to achieve this by maximizing technology and workflows. This plan proposes allowing the federal government to quickly and easily sell assets that it says would be better managed by local government or private entities.
It also seeks to increase the number of skilled construction workers by allowing Pell Grants to be used for short-term credentials at community colleges and allowing work-study funding to include on-the-job training.
The increase in infrastructure spending combined with a streamlined permitting process should provide a great opportunity for construction and related industries like engineering, architecture and equipment manufacturing. Federal spending and private projects spurred by it should lead to growth across the industry. Cutting waste and employing technology should drive the United States into the future, with long-term benefits for the entire economy.
Additionally, while President Trump’s anti-illegal worker stance has resonated throughout the construction industry, exacerbating the shortage of workers, this plan, if successful, will help remedy that situation by encouraging more individuals to seek employment in skilled trades.
But all these, of course, are dependent upon the infrastructure plan being implemented and then working as projected by the Trump administration. Critics claim the bill is not funded nearly as well as it should be for the massive scope of work that needs to be undertaken. Additionally, critics claim private investors will only be interested in projects with a high profit margin. Vital projects that are not as lucrative will be far less attractive. Some also worry that the costs will be passed on to the general public in the form of road tolls and other fees.
Regardless of these worries, one thing Americans of all political stripes can agree on is that something must be done about our decaying infrastructure. And it falls on the construction industry to rise to this task.
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