The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs will host a meeting this week with federal, state and local transportation officials to discuss investment ideas for President Donald Trump's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure spend, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
The group will explore various approaches to infrastructure financing and planning, draft a set of "guiding principles" and come up with ideas to take back to their state and local communities.
Outcomes from the meeting, which will include Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, could help drive the infrastructure conversation when federal lawmakers return from summer recess.
What started as a campaign rallying cry — the president's big infrastructure plans — has so far resulted mostly in suggestions for cuts to long-time grant programs. Among them is the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, although the administration has retained the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program, formerly known as FASTLANE (Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies).
Lawmakers have also heard testimony from recipients of Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans as a precursor to a possible expansion of that program. The administration has expressed a desire to maintain a focus on rural projects that find it hard to secure either grants or loans, something that will also be discussed at the White House meeting.
Major infrastructure players are preparing to take on big projects by strengthening their operations through mergers and acquisitions, as well as through multibillion-dollar spending programs.
Earlier this month, Jacobs Engineering announced that it would buy CH2M Hill in a $2.85 billion transaction. In July, AECOM made a $175 million deal to buy Shimmick Construction, a California-based contractor with a $1.35 billion backlog of projects in the Western U.S. AECOM previously announced a five-year, $3.5 billion plan to become the largest infrastructure contractor in the world.
Industry observers say consolidation among companies will concentrate expertise at the levels needed to pursue the expected avalanche of work, even though that could be two or three years away.