President Trump's infrastructure plan includes more tolls, more state control for roads

February 12, 2018

Taking the family on a long road trip could cost drivers more if a proposal unveiled Monday is adopted by Congress.

The Trump administration released its long-awaited infrastructure plan, which seeks to address the nation's crumbling roadways and other aged infrastructure. The 55-page proposal is only a broad-brush overview of the president's vision of how to fix U.S. roads, waterways, railways, energy grids, and airports, and is meant only as a roadmap for how the administration plans to pay for those improvements.

The legislative proposal relies heavily on individual states to allocate money for road improvements and to seek additional funding to pay for them. The proposal would relax regulations on interstate tolling and open up roadside rest areas to greater commercialization to pay for their maintenance.

READ MORE: Trump administration scraps infrastructure advisory council

In all, the proposal seeks to spend $1.5 trillion on U.S. roadways over 10 years, though dedicated new federal spending is only $200 billion of that. Most of that money is to come from cuts to the energy and transportation departments. The proposal specifically targets more rural roadways for improvement, with $50 billion earmarked for block grants that state governors could spend at their discretion.

The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave the nation's infrastructure a grade of "D+" and estimated that America's infrastructure needs roughly $2 trillion in investment. That group's president, Kristina Swallow, praised the White House proposal as a first step, but said Congress might face a difficult road ahead in getting any legislation passed.

"The Trump Administration’s plan is a solid first step in having a real conversation about solutions for the nation’s aging infrastructure, and a path to address our infrastructure investment deficit," Swallow said in an e-mailed statement to The Car Connection.

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"Now it’s time for Congress to develop a bill that can pass with bipartisan support," she added.

"If we are going to work on infrastructure, we should do this right and seize the opportunity to modernize our infrastructure and put us on a path for increased economic prosperity...Congress should not squander this opportunity for the American people, who are currently losing $3,400 a year in disposable income because of our outdated and inadequate infrastructure."

Senate Democrats criticized the proposal and said it relied too heavily on privatization.

“The president’s infrastructure proposal would do very little to make our ailing infrastructure better, but would put unsustainable burdens on our local government and lead to Trump tolls all over the country... It is a plan to appease his political allies, not to rebuild the country," Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. 

Mindful of the political challenges of adding widespread tolls, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month proposed a 25-cent-per-gallon increase in the federal gas tax, which has not risen since 1993, to fund infrastructure repairs. That proposal would likely face its own political headwinds as well, however.

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