Trump administration turns to rural communities for input on infrastructure bill

Trump administration turns to rural communities for input on infrastructure bill
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The Trump administration is seeking input from rural communities around the U.S. as it assembles a $1 trillion infrastructure package.

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoBiden rejects universal basic income idea popular in Silicon Valley Trump transportation chief to join Biden for jobs event Dems ask feds to look into airfare price gouging amid Irma threat MORE and Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerSenate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats Trump administration turns to rural communities for input on infrastructure bill Senators eye ticket fee to overhaul airports MORE (R-Neb.) are scheduled to meet in Omaha on Tuesday with Nebraska Department of Transportation officials, along with leaders from trucking, rail, aviation and construction companies.

Fischer chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on surface transportation.

“We look forward to hearing their ideas about how we can improve the regulatory process and move projects forward at a faster rate,” Chao and Fischer wrote in an op-ed for the Omaha World-Herald. “It is important to engage local communities in how we revitalize our infrastructure because transportation must meet the needs of the people it serves.”

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The effort comes one week after Trump signed an executive order designed to significantly shorten the time it takes federal agencies to approve projects to repair roads, highways, bridges and other public works.

The White House has yet to unveil a formal plan to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure — one of Trump’s chief campaign promises — but has repeatedly said it will include massive permit reform and incentives to encourage more private-sector investment.

But rural Republicans and Democrats have been concerned that the public-private partnership model will exclude rural areas and small infrastructure projects that can’t recoup their investment costs with some sort of revenue stream.

The administration, which needs the support of rural Republicans and some Democrats for the rebuilding initiative, has assured lawmakers that rural communities will receive funding from the infrastructure proposal.

“Every community has different transportation needs — there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Chao and Fischer wrote. “Rural communities are especially significant because they are the bread and butter of our nation. The U.S. Department of Transportation is putting a renewed emphasis on rural projects and infrastructure.”

Earlier this year, the Trump administration retooled an existing grant program to focus on infrastructure projects that use funding from the private sector or other nonfederal sources. That program also includes a focus on projects that address rural infrastructure needs.

“We are hopeful today’s discussions will act as a springboard to action so we can get the word out about these new programs and policies and get America building again,” Chao and Fischer wrote.