WASHINGTON — Axios, an online media outlet, has published what it calls a leaked draft document detailing the White House’s infrastructure plan.
No one is sure how old the document might be and whether the White House has made changes since the leaked draft was written.
Neither has anyone accounted for the voracity of the document.
Strangely absent has been any comment from the American Trucking Associations, which typically is quick to react to breaking transportation news.
Neither has The Associated Press moved an article about the leaked document, an indication that the world’s largest news gathering organization isn’t sure about the authenticity of the draft, which does not list specific dollar amounts or details of how funding would support various programs designed to improve the country’s infrastructure.
Mainstream media reports indicate half of the appropriated money would go to a program called the Infrastructure Incentives Initiative, which the document said would encourage "state, local and private investment in core infrastructure" by providing grants to cover up to 20 percent of a project's costs.
A quarter of the money would seek to improve infrastructure in rural areas by incentivizing investment in transportation or utilities like water treatment and broadband.
Ten percent of the money was set aside for “exploratory and ground-breaking ideas that have more risk than standard infrastructure projects but offer a larger reward profile,” wherein the government would offer to pay 80 percent of capital construction costs, 30 percent of trials to demonstrate the technology, and 50 percent of post-demonstration planning costs.
The draft does not call for a hike in the gasoline and diesel taxes, but based on reaction from two organizations, the plan does address commercialization of the nation’s travel plaza industry and would increase tolling.
“Although the truck stop and travel plaza industry is encouraged that the president continues to push forward on infrastructure and the need to increase infrastructure revenues, we are extremely disappointed at the prospect that the administration might renew its call for liberalizing tolling policy and commercializing rest areas, said Lisa Mullings, president and CEO of NATSO.
“As an industry that depends on the efficient movement of motorists and goods along the Interstate Highway System, we understand that infrastructure is the key to a strong U.S. economy. It is therefore imperative that the federal government maintain its strong national role in infrastructure development, and not relinquish its responsibility to the states or the private sector. We urge the administration to refrain from widespread tolling of America’s infrastructure and the commercialization of interstate rest areas.”
Stephanie Kane, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, said the leaked plan was a complete reversal of President Donald Trump’s commitment to putting America first. “Although then-candidate Trump campaigned against lining the pockets of Wall Street and promised to be the voice for the working class, this plan does the opposite,” she said. “President Trump is choosing Wall Street over Main Street. It would take money from hardworking Americans and give huge profits to toll road investors — many of which are foreign companies.
The leaked document allows ‘states flexibility to toll on interstates’ and reconciles ‘the grandfathered restrictions on use of highway toll revenues with current law.’ That translates to a complete reversal of the current federal ban on tolling existing interstates. Tolls are simply a new tax. They are wildly inefficient, sacrificing money that could go toward construction instead going to corporate profits and administrative costs.”
Axios bills itself as a “new media company delivering vital, trustworthy news and analysis in the most efficient, illuminating and shareable ways possible.”