At the CG/LA Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum today Dan Slane, the director responsible for infrastructure in the Trump Transition Team, described his report which he completed and delivered January 20 this year. In his view the only way to get the U.S. economy going again, by improving productivity and delivering 4 million high quality jobs (paying $60-80 000 for high school graduates), is infrastructure investment. Slane, who has an extensive background in private and public infrastructure development noted that the U.S. has neglected infrastructure over the past 30 years. He cited the ASCE Infrastructure Scorecard estimate that it will require $4 trillion to repair years of neglect (the 2017 Scorecard is expected this month). Slane said that the the biggest impediment to infrastructure development is permitting. In the U.S. on average it requires 9.5 years to get the necessary permits in place for an infrastructure project. It involves many federal and state agencies and can take up to 15 years. Another problem he mentioned is predatory and abusive law suits which are not intended to be won but to hold up projects.
When asked by President Trump to propose an infrastructure strategy as part of the transition team, he decided to take a business approach. First and foremost the investment had to generate high quality jobs for high school graduates in disadvantaged geographical areas. In addition he used five other criteria to assess potential projects.
1) Fix the worst of the worst - fix infrastructure like the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis before they collapse.
2) Fix productivity of America - fix infrastructure bottlenecks that inhibit productivity. He gave an example of a lock on the Mississippi River that ships require two days to pass through.
3) Defensive projects - projects that are designed to prevent serious economic disruption, for example, structures to prevent storm surges from seriously impacting the oil and gas facilities on the Louisiana Coast or New York transportation hubs.
4) National security - examples are cybersecurity projects and projects that are designed to prevent disruption of the U.S. energy grid by enabling redundancy.
5) Next gen - projects that contribute to the development of the infrastructure of the future.
He with the help of Norman Anderson, President & CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, winnowed 240 major projects down to 100 initially and then further down to 52 projects. They asked the Boston Consulting Group to verify the cost benefit analyses for these projects. It was estimated that the total cost of the 52 projects was $2.5 trillion and that the investment would generate 500 000 direct high quality jobs. The projects would require private investment funding.
The biggest hurdle to getting these 52 projects underway in the next four years was overcoming the permitting roadblock. Dan Slane proposed that the president issue an executive order mandating the 13 federal agencies who needed to be involved in the permitting of the 52 projects to complete the permitting within four months. The idea was that this would force the agencies to collaborate and to work in parallel rather than sequentially as is the normal practice.
Dan Slane submitted his infrastructure report January 20. Today he was unable to say what progress has been made since then as he is no longer part of the Administration. He speculated that the Administration may be completely tied up with health care and taxation. In his first major speech as president a couple of days ago Trump committed $ 1 trillion to infrastructure but did not provide details as to whether this is meant to be federal expenditures or tax incentives.