South Carolina transportation leaders discussed President Trump’s infrastructure plan Tuesday with a representative from the U. S. Secretary of Transporation’s office.
Special Advisor to Secretary of Transportation James Ray presented some of the ideas that the administration is using to craft an infrastructure bill.
“President Trump is a builder,” Ray told the group. “He wants to figure out how to do more with less.”
South Carolina Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said this is the first time since she can remember a presidential administration reaching out to the state transportation officials for advice.
“It’s unprecedented,” she told the roundtable panel Tuesday. “We’re excited about it . . . the level of engagement. I have been with the DOT for more than two decades and I can tell you for the first time in my career, the opportunity just has not presented itself for the administration to reach out to the state DOT leaders . . . asking for, ‘Hey, what are some ideas? What are some hurdles? What is it we can do to accelerate projects to help you do what you need to do at the local levels to advance the improvement of our infrastructure?’ So we’re very, very excited about the opportunity.”
Although the president’s goal is to stimulate $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment, the plan includes contributions and partnerships at the local level.
“We believe we’re very well-positioned as a state,” Hall said, referring to the recent fuel tax and various local sales tax programs that fund infrastructure improvements. “Were bringing money to the table so any opportunity that we have to leverage additional federal funds to our already planned programs, to accelerate those, to me is a win-win.”
Hall said whatever federal funding the state receives will go toward projects in the planning stage or already in the works. The state has hundreds of improvement necessities that are awaiting funding to begin.
“Our number one priority is safety,” she said. “So it would continue to mean safety investments, possibly accelerating some of our currently planned programs. So we’re not talking about adding priorities or expanding the priorities, but simply just potentially expanding what we already have in the pipeline.”
Governor McMaster said for the plan to work in South Carolina, the local governments will have to work together with the SCDOT to coordinate, combine and communicate.
“We’ll be competing with each other and that’s not good for the state,” he said.
The President’s proposal includes using federal money as seed money to incentivize infrastructure investments, addressing the needs of rural areas, streamlining the permitting process and project delivery and investing in projects that benefit everyone. Half of the funding will go toward incentives for state and local investments. One-quarter of the funding will be directed toward rural infrastructure needs.
Ray said Secretary Chao’s office is hopeful Congress can pass the bill this summer.