WASHINGTON — Both in his address to Congress on Tuesday and in a speech to the National Governors Association the day before, President Donald Trump took issue with policies that he said have led to the nation ignoring the plight of the U.S. infrastructure and pledged his administration would not follow suit.
“I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades to define the course of our future,” Trump told lawmakers gathered in the House chamber. “For too long, we've watched our middle class shrink as we've exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries. We've financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, and so many other places throughout our land.
“We've defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open for anyone to cross and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate. And we've spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.”
Trump noted that another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last “truly great” national infrastructure program — the building of the Interstate Highway System.
“The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding,” Trump said. “America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East — all the while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice, and maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.”
Trump then repeated a promise he’d made during the campaign.
“To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs,” he said. “This effort will be guided by two core principles: buy American and hire American.”
The day before his address to Congress, Trump told the National Governors Association that his infrastructure plan would make it easier for states to invest in infrastructure and referred to the same Middle East expenditure he would share with Congress the next day, noting “we have potholes all over our highways and roads.”
He then shared a discussion he’d had with a friend in the trucking business.
“He said, ‘my trucks are destroyed going from New York to Los Angeles. They’re destroyed.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to get the good trucks,’” Trump said. “He always prided himself on buying the best equipment. He said, ‘the roads are so bad that, by the time we make the journey from New York to Los Angeles or back,’ he said ‘the equipment is just beat to hell.’ I said, ‘when has it been like that before?’ He said, ‘it’s never been like that’ and he’s been in the business for 40 years. Forty years — never been like that. So, we’re going to take care of that.”
Trump promised to start spending big on the infrastructure.
“And it's not like we have a choice. It’s not like, oh, gee, let’s hold it off,” he said. “Our highways, our bridges are unsafe. Our tunnels — I mean, we have tunnels in New York where the tiles are on the ceiling, and you see many tiles missing. And you wonder, you know, you’re driving at 40 miles an hour, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel. Take a look at the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and you’re driving, and you see all this loose material that’s heavy. And it was made many years ago, so it’s heavy. Today, it’s light. It used to be better. The problem is, you got to hold it up. And I say to myself — every time I drive through, I say, I wonder how many people are hurt or injured when they are driving at 40, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel, and the tile falls off. And there are so many missing tiles and such loose concrete. So, we have to fix our infrastructure. It’s not like we have a choice. We have no choice, and we’re going to do it, and it also happens to mean jobs, which is a good thing.”
Trump did not expand on his plan to pay for infrastructure improvements other than to say the money would have to come from public and private sources.
Public sources could include higher fuel taxes, tolls and vehicle miles traveled programs. Private sources could include private-public partnerships.
All four types of funding sources have drawn either support or criticism from both the general public and/or the trucking industry.