Infrastructure could be a key part of Trump’s plan

It stands to reason that with the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, effective next month, interesting times are certainly heading our way.

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It stands to reason that with the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, effective next month, interesting times are certainly heading our way.

In terms of freight transportation, there are many issues to keep a watchful eye on, including: global trade and trade agreements; foreign policy in the way of tariffs and collaboration with our trade partners; the regulatory impact in regards to potential rollbacks of existing regulations, especially those focused on motor carriers; and, of course, climate change.

While it’s still too early to gauge how things may play out, one underlying theme since the ballots were officially tallied has been the potential for a renewed push for a national infrastructure plan. It was at least encouraging to hear infrastructure discussed as something that could be acted on sooner rather than later.

Before examining some of the comments, it needs to be made clear that while the current infrastructure efforts coming out of Washington are far from perfect, they’re not 100% flawed either. Why? Well, in recent years freight has gotten a better seat at the table, rather than being an afterthought.

Nearly a year ago, Congress and President Obama signed off on the $305 billion FAST Act—“Fixing America’s Surface Transportation”—which finally ended the 35 short-term, continuing resolution funding Band-Aids that Congress has passed since 2009.

To be sure, though, the bill is far from flawless. Long-term funding at a time when it’s sorely needed isn’t there, but it could be if there was the political will to increase the federal gasoline tax for the first time since 1993—but don’t count on it.

And as we well know, the current state of our infrastructure, as mentioned in my previous columns, is old, unsafe, falling apart and hurting our competitiveness. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave the United States a “D” grade on infrastructure. The group says that there will be a $1.44 trillion infrastructure funding gap over the next decade.

On the campaign trail, Trump didn’t share a specific proposal, but he did describe his vision as a “trillion-dollar rebuilding plan” that would be “one of the biggest projects this country has ever undertaken, which he said would be funded through low interest rates and infrastructure bonds.

One of the things Trump made clear in his acceptance speech was that a national commitment to infrastructure can no longer be ignored or overlooked. “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” he said. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

While that sounds like renewed commitment to rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, we’ll need to stay tuned for what comes next. However, one early and encouraging sign is that it has, at least for the moment, the potential to be a truly bipartisan effort, which in itself could go a long way towards progress.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) noted that investing in infrastructure is an important priority of Trump’s, adding that Congress “can work together to quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill.”

A recent Bloomberg report noted that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), with whom Trump has a solid relationship, has strongly supported the idea of infrastructure spending tied to a corporate tax overhaul.

It’s hard to know if that concept has legs, but at the very least the wheels are turning for a potential national infrastructure plan. As we have seen for many years in politics and policy, nobody ever really gets everything they want, so we need to wait for the official transition to take place and go from there.

Whatever happens, let’s hope it’s in the name of progress.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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