Trump reworks FASTLANE transportation grant program
- The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that it will amend one of its transportation grant programs to prioritize rural infrastructure and projects that receive private or non-federal investment, according to The Hill.
- The FASTLANE (Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies) program will now be called the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program and will favor projects that use "innovative approaches."
- Congress authorized $4.5 billion over five years for the program back in 2016, but new projects will share $1.5 billion. The Trump administration said 25% of the money will be earmarked for rural projects, which find it hard to attract the private investment the program requires.
P3s and private investment were the focal points of the $1 trillion infrastructure proposal the president unveiled during the campaign last year, and his 2018 budget proposal leans the same way. In an accompanying commentary to the budget outline, Trump said the states had come to rely too much on federal assistance for their local projects and said his administration's focus would shift to projects of national significance.
This latest USDOT announcement echoed this sentiment by stating that the INFRA program would focus on projects that "promote national or regional economic mobility and safety benefits." This approach also falls in line with Trump's plans to turn $200 billion into $1 trillion of infrastructure spending.
One project that took full advantage of the FASTLANE program was Virginia's $1.4 billion "Atlantic Gateway" expansion. The project will deliver increased capacity on Interstate 95, upgrades to state rail and Amtrak, as well as ancillary bridge and highway work. The Atlantic Gateway was awarded a $165 million FASTLANE grant last year. Primary funding of $700 million will come from the state, and the project's public-private partnership (P3) team will contribute $565 million.
Many states are already ahead of the curve and have started their own infrastructure programs, using gas-tax increases and other motorist-based fees to fund them. Indiana, Texas, California and Illinois have announced billions in infrastructure spending for projects like toll roads, pedestrian- and bicycle-based features, repairs and much-needed increases in highway capacity.
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