For a White House often accused of being divisive, President Trump may yet bring warring parties together on a major initiative that few voters will oppose. In his ‘State of the Union’ address last month, the president declared a major priority of his administration will be the rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure. Offering free ice cream at a summer camp could scarcely meet with greater enthusiasm than pledging to repair and renew the failing highways, bridges, and railroads that frustrate commuters and slow the economy. The American Society of Civil Engineers confirms what most of us suspect: our infrastructure is worn out, and major investment is needed to modernize it.
While roads and bridges are the most visible part of an infrastructure rebuild, there’s also a pressing need to expand shipping ports and to improve inland waterways. If America hopes to sell more goods overseas, and to reduce its massive trade deficit, we must move our commodities to market more efficiently. All of this will be costly, though. Last year, the Journal of Commerce reported that the nation’s ports need more than $100 billion in expansion and improvement.
As Congress debates how to pay for infrastructure, it should also address policy changes that will be necessary to rebuild it. A good start would be to streamline the various time-consuming and bureaucratic permit processes that hamper major projects. Utility companies, for example, are often willing to make substantial investments in upgraded power plant efficiency and environmental performance. But they are often stymied by protracted permit approvals that can render such investment uneconomic.
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