Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Needs to Help Aging U.S. Railways, Advocates Say

White House releases proposal to repair crumbling U.S. bridges and roadways, with Alaska senator saying it could help rural areas.

byKate Gibson|
Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Needs to Help Aging U.S. Railways, Advocates Say

President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled a proposal to improve the nation's crumbling infrastructure, with one lawmaker saying it could help develop rural areas and an advocacy group calling for help for railways.

While much of the proposal has been public for weeks, the 53-page White House plan details how $1.5 trillion in new investment would come about, including increased use of private-activity bonds to finance projects, widening the use of tax-exempt debt by private entities.

The proposal includes $50 billion for rural infrastructure, which would be offered to states in the form of block grants, drawing praise from Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan, who sits on the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"Certain states that don't have big populations can't always have the toll roads," the senator told CNBC of the system typically used by states to pay for construction and maintaining roadways. 

"There's going to be a set aside of about 25 percent in this proposal for rural states," he added.

Conversely, an advocate for investing in the nation's railway system said federal investment is needed to address safety issues and modernize Amtrak, which has been plagued by accidents in recent months, two of which involved fatalities

"Trump needs to take the lead on this front, not cede it to state agencies and as yet-unnamed private investors, by prioritizing funding for the system as part of his infrastructure proposal," wrote Michael Friedberg, executive director of the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor, a rail network that runs through eight states and Washington, D.C.

"President Trump and Congress must start fixing this now, with long-overdue investments that would finally bring our railway system into the 21st century," Friedberg wrote in a piece published Monday.