WASHINGTON — The Trump administration believes that empowering decision-making on infrastructure projects at the state and local level is vitally important, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told an assembled group of state transportation officials.
“The federal government only owns about 10 percent of our country’s infrastructure, and contributes about 14 percent of total infrastructure spending,” Chao said.
She delivered keynote remarks at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ legislative meeting in Washington. February 28. “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.”
The goal of the President’s proposal is to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment, which includes a minimum of $200 billion in direct federal funding.
Trump has established four guiding principles for his plan:
Half of the new infrastructure funds would go toward 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.
“As a former Secretary of Labor, I’m pleased to note this plan also has a workforce component, to help workers access the skills needed to build these new projects.
Chao said while Congress would be conducting hearings on infrastructure legislation this spring, the administration began last year doing what it could at the regulatory level.
“At DOT, we are implementing the president’s “One Federal Decision” initiative that was announced last August to help speed up infrastructure projects and reduce costs,” she said. “We are working on a new process to handle the permitting of complicated, multi-agency projects to meet the President’s new expedited timeline. This means less paperwork and more timely improvements that will better protect the environment and our quality of life.”
Chao said DOT’s efforts to reduce regulatory costs and burdens that stymie infrastructure projects, limit the deployment of innovation and hinder job creation have already yielded significant results.
“In the prior eight years, the Transportation Department alone increased the cost of regulations on our economy by over $3 billion a year,” she said. “In 2017, the department decreased regulatory costs by $312 million and is on track to reduce the cost of regulations by more than $500 million in 2018.”
Chao said this “dramatic turnaround” could be explained by the fact that of the 158 DOT rulemakings in 2017, over half (82) were deregulatory.
“Contrast that with the previous year, in which only 14 percent of the 132 rulemakings were deregulatory,” she said.
“We are keeping this history in mind as we advance the administration’s infrastructure plan and as we look toward the future of transportation. As you well know, we are in the midst of a transportation transformation. And where the regulatory aspects of these evolving technologies are concerned, the future has arrived.”
Chao predicted new technologies could transform the way Americans travel and connect with one another.
“I’m referring to autonomous — or self-driving — vehicles, drones and other transportation innovations,” she said. “These new technologies have the potential to improve safety by addressing human error, which is a factor in 94 percent of traffic fatalities. They also can help increase access to transportation for underserved communities — including the elderly and people with disabilities by giving them back their freedom.”