President Donald Trump has announced a bold, innovative plan for improving and investing in America’s infrastructure. The proposal is the culmination of a year-long effort between Cabinet agencies, including the Department of Transportation, with significant input from state, local, and private sector leaders. It is designed to change how infrastructure is built, financed and maintained in communities across the country.
A national discussion on how we build and fund our roads, bridges, tunnels, seaports, airports, rural infrastructure and transit systems is long overdue. As U.S. Secretary of Transportation, I’ve had countless conversations with governors and local officials across the country — including Florida Gov. Rick Scott — about strengthening America’s critical infrastructure. Florida is doing it the right way.
One project in particular is the I-4 Ultimate Project. I-4 Ultimate will help transform Central Florida by rebuilding 21 miles of interstate. From its inception in 1965, I-4 has been a vital east-west connector that cuts through Central Florida, serving as the main transportation corridor from Daytona Beach to Tampa.
I-4 Ultimate includes the addition of two new dynamic tolled Express Lanes in each direction, replacing more than 140 bridges, reconfiguring 15 major interchanges, and reconstructing the entire existing roadway. By utilizing a public-private partnership procurement method, the Florida Department of Transportation will deliver the project in seven years where standard funding options projected it would take 27 years to complete. When finished, the project is expected to decrease travel times by increasing options for commuters and visitors in central Florida.
The $2.3 billion construction project is benefiting from more than $1 billion in private financing from the concessionaire, I-4 Mobility Partners, including private bank loans, Federal TIFIA loans, and private investment. As such, the project also needs a workforce, including engineers, designers, skilled workers, as well as all that goes into supplying product and equipment along the way. This means jobs for Central Florida.
Unfortunately, Florida is the exception, not the norm. One out of every five miles of U.S. highway pavement is in poor condition. Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic in 2014, or 42 hours per driver. Almost 40 percent of America’s bridges are more than 50 years old.
Fortunately, the president is a builder and he is making infrastructure a priority.
President Trump’s proposal will stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment, which includes a minimum of $200 billion in direct federal funding. It will include not only roads and bridges, but drinking and wastewater, energy, broadband, and veterans hospitals as well.
The guiding principles are to: 1) provide federal dollars as matching funds to incentivize infrastructure investment; 2) provide for the needs of rural communities; 3) streamline and speed up project delivery; and, 4) provide for workforce training.
The key element of the proposal is to empower decision making by State and local officials, who know best the infrastructure needs of their communities, including those in rural America. The Federal government needs to stop dictating and start listening to State and local leaders, including those who encourage private sector investment in infrastructure.
Permitting reform will eliminate duplication and enhance environmental protections by delivering infrastructure improvements in a timelier fashion. The Department of Transportation is already developing a new process to handle the reviewing of complicated, multi-agency projects to reduce permitting from ten years to two.
And as a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, I could not be more pleased that this plan also has a work-force component, to help workers access the education and skills needed to build these new projects and better prepare them to remain an active part of the American work force.
Infrastructure is the foundation of our economy, and the key to job growth and keeping our country competitive. The citizens of Florida know this. Americans know this.
President Trump’s proposal will create new jobs, strengthen our economy, and improve quality of life. It will help ensure that our country has the infrastructure needed for today and the plans for tomorrow to remain a global leader. The Administration looks forward to working with both parties in Congress to get it done.
By Secretary Elaine Chao
February 15, 2018
Elaine L. Chao is the secretary of the Department of Transportation