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President Donald Trump yesterday unveiled his long-awaited infrastructure plan, which calls for a $200 billion federal investment over the next decade.The federal funding would be used to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment, as well as shorten project permitting time to two years, invest in rural infrastructure projects and improve worker training.Trump proposes that states and local communities match federal funds they receive to implement infrastructure improvement projects. It also encourages private-sector investors in public works projects.The plan also includes expanding the use of tax-exempt debt; allows states to add tolls on interstate highways; and makes it easier to lease airports and other public assets.The plan received mixed reviews from trade associations representing the rail and transportation industry."The private freight rail industry commends the Trump administration for formally beginning the discussion on infrastructure legislation with this document," said Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a prepared statement. "The sector particularly welcomes the efforts to streamline the federal permitting processes, including in the proposal's attempt to codify Executive Orders into law while also strengthening existing processes."However, the most important aspect to any infrastructure package would be a long-term solution to shoring up the Highway Trust Fund; such a proposal was not included in Trump's plan, AAR noted."Policymakers should make every effort to return surface transportation funding to a truly equitable, user-pay system as originally designed," Hamberger said.Although American Public Transportation Association (APTA) officials commended Trump's commitment to strengthening American infrastructure, they opposed the administration's proposed "deep cuts" in federal programs that fund public transit infrastructure."The $200 billion proposed by the administration for infrastructure would be paid for by cutting funding for critical public transportation infrastructure programs, including the Capital Improvement Grants (CIG), Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program (TIGER) and Amtrak, in the fiscal-year 2019 budget," APTA officials said in a prepared statement. "This would be a big mistake and counterproductive to fostering prosperous communities."APTA will work toward a bipartisan solution that continues and expands the "historic federal support" that's necessary to address public transit needs, including addressing a $90 billion backlog of the transit industry's state-of-good repair needs, association officials said."Funding public transportation projects is aligned with the administration's focus on funding major transformative projects, supporting rural communities, streamlining the federal permitting and approval processes, and investing in a high-skilled, competitive workforce," APTA officials said. "We are encouraged by specific provisions in the proposal related to public transportation, including streamlining, preserving and expanding the CIG pilot program and eliminating constraints on private-public partnerships."
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