CINCINNATI — President Donald Trump promised on June 7 to create a “first-class” system of roads, bridges and waterways by using $200 billion in public funds to generate $1 trillion in investment to pay for construction projects that most public officials agree are badly needed and long overdue.
“America must have the best, fastest and most reliable infrastructure anywhere in the world,” Trump said, pushing his infrastructure plan in middle America as Washington geared up for Thursday's appearance before Congress by fired FBI Director James Comey.
“We will fix it,” said Trump, standing along the Ohio River. “We will create the first-class infrastructure our country and our people deserve.”
Trump said that as he campaigned across the country last year, people often asked him why the U.S. was spending money to rebuild other countries when the roads and bridges they travel on needed rebuilding, too.
Trump declared the days of spending on other nations are over: “It's time to rebuild our country” and to "put America first," he said.
While infrastructure initially was seen as an area where Republican and Democrats could work together, Democrats have balked at Trump's plan for financing improvements, arguing it would result in taxpayer-funded profits for corporations with the cost offloaded on consumers.
The White House has yet to outline specifics of the infrastructure plan, which it hopes to achieve largely through public-private partnerships.
It has proposed funding improvements with $200 billion in public funds over nine years that would theoretically leverage $1 trillion worth of construction.
U.S. inland waterways are critical routes for transporting agricultural products, but officials say they've grown old and run down.
The White House billed the first week in June as “infrastructure week” and planned a series of events, beginning with Trump's push June 5 to privatize the nation's air traffic control system, separating it from the Federal Aviation Administration. That idea, which isn't new, quickly drew bipartisan opposition.
Trump also planned to discuss infrastructure spending with governors and mayors at the White House on Thursday.
Mike Toohey, president of the Waterways Council Inc, an inland waterways infrastructure advocacy group, said he was pleased to see the president addressing what he called the "silent r" of the transportation system — rivers. Far more attention is usually paid to roadways, railways and runways, he said.
Still, he said the industry is concerned about Trump's recent budget proposal, which he said could result in higher costs for the commercial users that finance the waterways' upkeep.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.