FutureStructure

White House Seeks Accelerated Infrastructure Permitting Process

Relying on the trope that cutting regulations leads to limitless economic potential, the White House's economic council is hoping to identify measures that could speed up the permitting process.

by / April 13, 2017
A chart held up at the CEO town hall showing all the steps necessary to get federal infrastructure project approval. Screenshot from Twitter/Donald Trump

According to a recent report by the Associated Press, members of the Trump administration are working on an infrastructure package that includes tax breaks for private companies to pursue construction projects on roads, bridges and highways. President Trump anticipates including measures to shrink project approval times.

The National Economic Council is hoping to make recommendations that may be able to speed up the regulatory process for construction pieces. Although no official plan has been released, many statements made by Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao indicate that their approach will be a public-private partnership (P3) first model.

“We’re going to try and take that [approval] process from a minimum of 10 years down to one year,” Trump said at a "CEO town hall" event earlier this month. Though there is no evidence that the infrastructure approval rates average 10 years, he promised the crowd of business executives that he is “really speeding up the process.”

Of course in 2015, when the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act was passed, along with creating a long-term funding strategy, it also took aim at lowering the regulatory hurdles for getting project approval. The act's passage led to the formation of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC), which was tasked with improving federal infrastructure permitting.

Bill Kovacs, senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is skeptical that the process could be lessened even more. "You've got it down to a process that is two-and-a-half years," Kovacs told AP. "It remains difficult to cut out more time while still conducting reviews "to make sure there is no harm to the environment."

The United States received another failing grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers on the state of infrastructure in the country. While P3s are one solution, many have questioned their applicability in more rural areas where there may be lower return on investments.