In the quagmire of post-election news, there is one underlying topic that keeps cropping up: infrastructure. During his recent and first speech to Congress, President Trump announced that he would send them a $1 trillion infrastructure bill for signature. How this bill is received we will see soon enough, but a related yet concrete measure is the appointment of Elaine Chao as the new Secretary of Transportation. Her appointment along with the focus on infrastructure portends implications that will be felt the next four years. So what then are the priorities for the new Secretary?
The current state-of-the-(transport)nation is in some ways bleak, and in others, moving firmly in the right direction. First the bad news: the oft-quoted infrastructure report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the U.S. a D+, which is fairly abysmal; also noting that $3.6 trillion is required by 2020 to fill the gap. Boston, as one example, despite hoping to host the 2024 Olympics, may no longer have the underlying transport infrastructure required.
The good news? The U.S. has come far in its thinking, from former Transport Secretary Mary Peters (2006-2009) stating that walking and bicycling are not forms of transportation, and therefore merit no spending. In recent years, things progressed under the leadership of Ray LaHood and Anthony Foxx, who put livable communities squarely in the locus of the Department of Transportation. In fact, Elaine Chao has already given support for continuing bipartisan infrastructure financing, including the TIGER grant program.
While other until-recent-apolitical areas of discussions have become heavily politicized, such as climate change, one can hope that infrastructure and transportation remain common sense priorities. We will soon know, with decisions on critical infrastructure looming large.
What should be the top transport priorities for the new Secretary of Transportation?
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