iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Elaine Chao, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of transportation, has a big job in front of her if confirmed by the Senate.
Rehabbing America’s aging infrastructure is clearly a Trump priority.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports,” the president-elect said in his victory speech. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.”
Crumbling transportation was a major theme during his presidential bid as well.
“Our infrastructure is broken,” then-candidate Trump said in June. “The roadways are so bad. Our bridges are bad. Airports are bad. … We need to rebuild our country.”
The need for infrastructure investment was one of the only issues Trump and his rival, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, seemed to agree on.
According to the Federal Highway Safety Administration, nearly 10 percent of America’s bridges — around 60,000 in all — are classified as “deficient,” and the American Society of Civil Engineers says 32 percent of our major roads are in “poor” or “mediocre” condition. AAA estimates that potholes alone cost American drivers $3 billion a year. The Federal Aviation Administration says airport congestion and flight delays cost the country more than $31 billion. And the ASCE gives America a D+ for infrastructure.
Two weeks before Election Day, the business mogul released a plan, pledging to spend up to $1 trillion on transportation and infrastructure over the next decade.
The infusion of cash would be spurred by $137 billion in tax credits for construction companies, which, according to Trump advisers Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, would be later repaid through taxes on contractor profits and taxes on wages earned by the workers — thus making the plan “revenue neutral,” according to the Trump campaign.
Theoretically, these tax credits would incentivize investors to spend big. (A trillion dollars’ worth of infrastructure would require an initial outlay of about $167 billion, Trump’s advisers said.) That investment would generate “thousands” of jobs in construction and manufacturing, his campaign said.
To quote Ross and Navarro, a Trump administration would seek a “private sector solution to the provision of public infrastructure.”
Trump’s plan also criticizes the Obama administration’s expenditures on “endless studies,” “layer-upon-layer of red tape” and litigation. A Trump administration would focus instead on finishing projects on time and under budget by streamlining permitting and eliminating wasteful spending, according to the campaign.
“Nobody can build better than I can,” Trump said in answer to a question about infrastructure repair, adding that mending roads and bridges is “not so different” from erecting buildings.
According to GreatAgain.gov, Trump also plans to tackle a number of transportation issues, from eliminating Transportation Security Administration wait times and reforming air traffic control systems to incorporating next-gen vehicles and upgrading water pipelines.
And it’s beginning to sound like he may be able to get somewhere.
In the hours following Trump’s election, Rep. Nancy Pelosi indicated that a “robust infrastructure jobs bill” could be Trump’s “common ground” with Democrats on the Hill.
Chao also happens to be married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — causing some speculation that her nomination could give Trump leverage over McConnell’s caucus, which is sometimes uncomfortable with high spending.
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