Obama to streamline permits for infrastructure projects

President Obama on Friday will announce a new executive order designed to streamline the permitting process for federal infrastructure projects during a visit to Baltimore, the latest stop in a campaign-style jobs tour designed to drive the White House's second-term economic policy agenda.

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The executive order will mandate federal agencies implement so-called "best practices" to streamline the process for obtaining federal permits to work on infrastructure projects. The White House says the move will help jumpstart construction on vital transportation systems in need of urgent repair.

"Those practices range from expanding information technology (IT) tools to strategies for improving collaboration, such as having multiple agencies review a project at the same time, instead of one after the other," said a White House aide.

The White House has been working in recent weeks to put a renewed focus on the legislative proposals from the president's State of the Union address. Last Thursday, Obama visited Austin, Texas, where he spoke about economic opportunity at a high school with a science and technology focus.

That stop also featured the announcement of two new executive orders: launching competitions for three innovation centers, and a new requirement mandating government data be made freely available so that entrepreneurs can access “troves of previously inaccessible data.”

But while administration officials have touted the executive actions as steps in the right direction, the White House hopes the jobs tour will help build momentum for his legislative proposals that have stalled in the Republican-controlled House.

"There's a lot on Congress's plate," a White House aide said earlier this month, noting upcoming debates over immigration reform and presidential nominations. "We also want to make sure part of the discussion includes a conversation about the economy, including a focus on some of the ideas that the president rolled out in his State of the Union address."

While in Baltimore, Obama will visit a local elementary school that provides early childhood education services. While there, he is expected to tout a proposal, first announced in his State of the Union address, that provides federal matching dollars to states with the goal of providing preschool for every 4-year-old from a moderate- or low-income family.

Obama is also requesting an expansion of Early Head Start to provide additional childcare and learning programs for toddlers.

The president will speak later in the afternoon at Ellicott Dredges, a company founded in the 19th century that specializes in dredging equipment. It's during that visit that the president plans to announce his executive order, while also calling on Congress to invest $50 billion in new infrastructure projects.

In his final stop of the day, Obama will visit a community center that provides job training to low-income adults.

The White House has said that the president plans "a series of these [day trips] … every several weeks or so," with the goal of "trying to assemble this common-sense caucus" to pass some of the president's priorities.

Earlier this month, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president “believes that, in spite of the fact that Washington is, on occasion, throwing up obstacles to economic growth and job creation, that there are areas across the country where positive steps are being taken.”