President Donald Trump promised a $1 trillion plan within the first 100 days of his presidency to fix the country’s “crumbling infrastructure.” That deadline passed without a proposal.
The next attempts to focus on infrastructure suffered from either horrible timing, chaos of the president’s own making, or both. “Infrastructure Week” in June, for example, coincidedwith former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate committee testimony.
But Axios published a leaked document this week that reportedly contained the outlines of the White House’s infrastructure proposal. The plan emphasizes federal grants to pay for portions of projects, with some combination of state, local, and private funding making up the difference. It also includes a program to spur rural infrastructure development.
The leaked document didn’t include any numbers, but multiple reports have suggested the administration will ask for $200 billion in grants over 10 years, attempting to leverage close to $1 trillion in total spending.
The question now is whether this plan — if it’s indeed the final plan — will effectively tackle America’s gaping infrastructure challenges.
Before the proposal leaked, Vox asked infrastructure experts and analysts to lay out whatthe federal government should prioritize in any major plan to adequately and cost-effectively upgrade, fix, and replace America’s infrastructure.
It’s a bit premature to say whether Trump’s strategy will accomplish this, particularly without any final numbers. But if the leaked documented is any indication, the majority of the federal money will come in the form of limited grants, putting more emphasis on local, state, and private entities to foot the bill.
The federal government’s role in infrastructure is already scaled back, and some experts acknowledged this may be the new normal moving forward — with or without a Trumpian plan.
Still, if the US government is going to invest in critical infrastructure, how and where the federal government spends the billions it’s willing to spare counts even more. Early reports on Trump’s proposal suggest that investment will fall short of what’s needed. But it may not be a done deal yet.
Below are transcripts of our interviews with experts, edited and condensed.