The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration has proposed a rule that would expedite permitting and regulatory processes for infrastructure projects if private investment is at stake, according to The Hill.
Under the proposed rule, public transportation projects could request an FTA waiver or variance if they can prove the agency's standard approvals process will deter private investment.
The FTA rule does not provide a way to shortcut requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act or any other federal law.
Private investment is a critical piece of President Donald Trump's infrastructure proposal, based on the limited details released so far by his administration. Trump has promised hefty tax breaks for private equity investors who put their money into certain public projects, and he has said he will eliminate what he considers to be costly and schedule-killing regulations.
He has been chipping away the latter goal since taking office.
Construction stocks soared after Trump was elected, but enthusiasm has dampened somewhat in the intervening months, at least in the case of those hoping for an immediate payoff. Infrastructure has taken a backseat to issues like healthcare, trade and tax reform. Some Republicans have said tax reform, in particular, must be addressed first in order to pay for the roads, bridges and other public assets whose upgrades will be covered in the infrastructure proposal.
Yet the FTA's new proposed rule indicates that the administration still believes expediency will be key in getting a significant public construction program off the ground. Regardless of how many regulations the president and his staff pull back or eliminate altogether, Congress still must consider the infrastructure funding proposal the White House submits. Observers now say the submission is likely to come later this year or in early 2018. Passage will not be an easy feat as Democrats have not hidden their dislike for anything that appears to be privatization of the country's infrastructure.
In addition, although Republicans have said in the past that they would support a plan that included private investment, their recent failure to come together on a proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act puts in doubt their ability to reach an easy consensus on complex issues like infrastructure or tax reform.