By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

President Donald Trump is challenging Congress and the American people to support a nationwide infrastructure rebuilding program that rivals the Interstate Highway System championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower more than 60 years ago.

“Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land,” Trump said in his Feb. 28 address to a joint session of Congress.

Trump called for “legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States—financed through both public and private capital—creating millions of new jobs.” He did not offer details about how to raise the money, which he first suggested during last fall’s presidential campaign.

Trump touted his executive orders to expedite environmental review and approval processes, and clearing the way for two major pipeline projects, as evidence of his infrastructure rebuilding commitment. Before the speech, the White House cited ARTBA’s Feb. 15 report showing nearly 56,000 of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient to emphasize the “desperate need for improvement.”

In a statement after the speech, ARTBA President Pete Ruane said:  “When it comes to infrastructure, strategic focus should be the key.” He added:  “The biggest return on investment would be found by modernizing America’s Economic Expressway—the Interstate System and its connections to the nation’s major ports, inland waterways, rail hubs, airports and pipelines. Right now it is woefully underperforming, costing every American citizen and business time and money.”

ARTBA will continue advocating for a permanent Highway Trust Fund solution and a long-term infrastructure plan during 2017.  The association believes that tax reform remains the most appropriate policy vehicle to fix the trust fund.

Trump said his infrastructure program will be guided by two core principles: “Buy American, and Hire American.” He said the effort should aim to provide tangible results before America celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2026.