Trump officials push application overhaul for infrastructure projects

Trump officials push application overhaul for infrastructure projects
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White House officials want to overhaul the application process for infrastructure projects in order to help speed up President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE’s massive rebuilding initiative.

Trump's policy adviser D.J. Gribbin said Tuesday that the administration plans to make it easier for local governments and public-private partnerships to apply for federal infrastructure funding, which Trump has promised to inject into the country as part of his national rebuilding plan.

The goal is to have “clear, measurable, objective criteria” so that applicants can figure out for themselves whether or not they are good candidates to receive federal funds.

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Being more transparent about what the administration is looking for will also encourage more projects to conform to those standards, Gribbin added.

“We want to get rid of this black box where you send applications to Washington and you win or you lose, but you’re never quite sure why,” Gribbin said at an infrastructure event hosted by the Hudson Institute.

Trump huddled with key transportation leaders in the Oval Office on Monday to discuss his long-awaited infrastructure proposal, which has taken a back seat to other GOP priorities in Congress this year.

The White House said it plans to submit “detailed legislative principles” to Congress in early January outlining Trump’s infrastructure vision. Officials are still putting the finishing touches on the roughly 70-page document, which is expected to serve as the building block for lawmakers to write actual legislation next year.

The administration has said it wants to use about $200 billion in federal seed money, along with significant permit reform and other incentives, to leverage $1 trillion worth of overall infrastructure investment in the country.

“Part of what we want to do with our incentive program is say, ‘Listen, if you as a state or local elected official are willing to create a new revenue stream for infrastructure, we as the federal government want to partner with you in doing that,’ ” Gribbin said.

For rural regions, however, Gribbin said Trump’s rebuilding proposal would distribute block grants for infrastructure and broadband investments.

The rebuilding plan may also address the ailing Highway Trust Fund, which is due to run out of money in 2020, in order "to make sure we don't end this [infrastructure] debate and still have a 2020 issue," Gribbin said.

But the biggest question hanging over the rebuilding effort is how to pay for its massive price tag, which could be the proposal’s biggest challenge.

There has also been concern in transportation circles that the House GOP tax plan would eliminate a critical infrastructure financing tool used by states and local governments. But Gribbin emphasized that trade-offs had to be made in order to advance the tax overhaul, which has been the administration's top priority.