Trump infrastructure proposal aims at specific rules; avoids detailed project talk

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President Donald Trump
The White House
WASHINGTON — Railroads have at least nine paragraphs to themselves in a 55-page summary released by the White House Monday on President Donald Trump's proposals for U.S. infrastructure.

The Trump administration's "Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America" avoids naming or promoting specific projects and instead focuses on ways the federal government finances or regulates infrastructure.

For railroads, the first mention comes on page 10 followed by two paragraphs on the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program. Specifically, the administration proposes that Congress authorize funds directly to the Department of Transportation related to costs of subsidizing the program. White House staffers also want to subsidize passenger and shortline freight projects so supporters of those projects can borrow at rates comparable to better-funded or less risky ventures.

Under the headline "Rail" on page 25, administration staffers say they'd like to see Congress amend a law that would reduce the amount of time organizations or people have to contest a project from two years to 150 days — similar to what highway projects now face.

Rail is also mentioned again on page 38, when administration staffers refer to when rail "project sponsors" can purchase or exercise options on proposed rights-of-way. Under current law, the administration staffers say, railroads and others must wait for a national environmental review process clearance that is public record before buying land. The administration advocates a change allowing rail project supporters to buy land earlier in the process.

The rail industry’s trade association offered qualified support for the administration document.

“The private freight rail industry commends the Trump administration for formally beginning the discussion on infrastructure legislation with this document today. 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," says Association of American Railroads President Ed Hamberger. "At its core, however, the most important aspect to any such package remains the integrity of the Highway Trust Fund. Policymakers should make every effort to return surface transportation funding to a truly equitable, user-pay system as originally designed.”

Transit projects, including subways, light rail, and buses, also get attention on page 24. That's where administration officials say they want Congress to require transit agencies and developers that use Federal funds to also have "value capture" financing. That financing would levy additional taxes and fees or grant land-use rights to transit agencies with the expectation that businesses and properties near transit projects would see a boost in value after transit comes in.

Administration officials also would like to see fewer limits on public-private partnerships in transit projects.

The full document is available online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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