U.S. House Highway Leader Sam Graves Optimistic About Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Passage
FROM TRANSPORT TOPICS:
Missouri Republican Rep. Sam Graves, among the leading candidates to succeed outgoing Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster next year, said he is optimistic about the chances of advancing a massive infrastructure plan this year.
Republican leaders are currently awaiting the details of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan, which Graves expects to see after the president’s State of the Union address Jan. 30.
“We want to see it happen this year, sooner rather than later,” Graves told Transport Topics in his Capitol Hill office on Jan. 10. He is chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. “We’re going to do everything we can to move it out of the House. I’m optimistic.”
The administration released a few details last year, calling for $200 billion in federal funds that would leverage $800 billion in private sector investments. Rural projects would receive $25 billion. States would be encouraged to increase funding for projects, and tolling would spread along busy corridors.
“Obviously, the administration would like to see a trillion dollars worth of investment. We’ll see if we can get there. That’s a pretty tough lift,” Graves said. “It is going to be a massive infrastructure bill, though.”
He added, “We’ll move fairly quickly once we get their guidelines and ideas.”
With the Highway Trust Fund’s looming insolvency, figuring out a long-term source of funding for infrastructure will take center stage when congressional negotiations kickoff. A major point of contention will be whether to raise fuel taxes, which leaders from both parties have not considered doing since former President Bill Clinton’s first term. The trust fund relies on revenue from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents-per-gallon diesel tax. Most infrastructure stakeholders, such as the trucking and construction industries, support raising fuel taxes.
Trump’s infrastructure plan also is expected to propose changes in the culture across federal agencies that, according to Graves, would mean enhancing the implementation of funding for big-ticket infrastructure projects.
“We found that a lot of the programs that were passed in the past highway bills, it’s very hard to qualify, very hard to meet the criteria to be able to do a lot of these projects. We want to see that streamlined,” he said, citing the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act as an example.
Other programs likely to be updated under the plan include the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, and the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grants.