President Trump will spend the final day of his so-called “Infrastructure Week” Friday rolling out Brooklyn-born plans to roll-back regulations he says delay by years how quickly construction on critical projects involving roads, highways, bridges and railways across the U.S. can get started.
After a four-day effort to tout his $1 trillion infrastructure plan — a stretch that included announcing plans to privatize air traffic control, improve waterways in Ohio and talk with mayors and governors at the White House about specific projects — Trump will visit the Transportation Department Friday afternoon, where he will push regulatory changes that would shorten the permit approval and environmental review processes that can take as long as 10 years to conclude.
The White House hasn’t released full text of the formal proposal — which would rely on funding from $200 billion in tax breaks over nine years — but has so far provided guidance outlining that its regulatory reform aspects could involve developing better partnerships with state and local governments and private firms, and “slashing regulations” to “reduce permitting time from 10 years to 2 years to” more quickly “get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no'” on projects.
That idea draws heavily from the “Two Years Not 10 Years” plan pitched personally to Trump by Philip Howard, the chairman of Common Good, a Brooklyn-based nonpartisan group that advocates for regulatory reform.
In his original 2015 white paper outlining the ideas, Howard advocates for actions that “cut red tape” from agencies, including the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency, that have slowly “grown out of control over the past several decades.”
Citing “inadvertent” consequences of environmental and other reviews, Howard explained in an interview with the Daily News that waiting for the approval process to play out for various roads, highways, bridges and waterways can take years — critical wasted time that can “double or triple the original cost of the project.”
That problem is no one’s fault, he said — but it can’t continue.
“Nobody designed the current regulatory system regarding infrastructure permits and proposals, it’s just this jungle of overlapping things that have been in the making for 50 years,” Howard told The News.
Trump’s formal plan — which Howard hasn’t yet seen — is likely to be based heavily on his recommendation to “create clear lines of authority.”
Doing so would involve putting an “accountable” official at the EPA in charge of environmental reviews, while permits would be controlled by “one agency” with “overriding authority.”
“Any disagreements would be heard by the White House or a department designated by it,” he said.
“There’s no one overarching agency which can balance the demands of different regulators so a project can move forward,” he wrote in his original paper. “Final decisions are often made by judges instead of responsible officials.”
Infrastructure spending remains a popular policy goal among U.S. voters from both parties and could represent a narrow opportunity for Trump to get something done.
Greenlighting infrastructure projects could also help spur hiring across the U.S. Just last week, the Labor Department’s jobs report showed that hiring slowed in May and was below previous estimates for March and April.
But Democrats have signaled increasing unwillingness to work with the administration, citing the growing number of controversies that have engulfed the White House.