By Eric Anderson
Details sparse, but experts agree on need to reinvestment
While the plans aren’t very specific, President-elect Donald Trump‘s pledge to spend $1 trillion on the nation’s decaying infrastructure is getting a warm response.
“Infrastructure hasn’t been given the priority that it should,” said Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, an agency that oversees distribution of federal transportation funds. “We’ve got many more projects than funding.”
“It’s a problem everywhere in New York,” said Michael Elmendorf, president and CEO of Associated General ContractorsNew York State, referring to aging water and sewer systems. Elmendorf said hardly a day goes by that there isn’t a news story about the failure of some environmental infrastructure.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had proposed spending $275 billion over five years to fix the nation’s infrastructure, while President Barack Obama‘s scaled-back $305 billion, five-year plan — the Senate GOP earlier rejected a $478 billion proposal — was approved last December.
Trump has offered few details on his program, other than to say it would “create thousand of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing and other sectors to build the transportation, water, telecommunications and energy infrastructure.”
And a plan to approve energy infrastructure projects including pipelines and coal export terminals is likely to draw fierce opposition from environmentalists.
Trump presumably would cover the costs through public-private partnerships and user fees.
Trump likened his infrastructure initiative to that of President Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s effort to build a nationwide network of interstate highways.
“Any infrastructure spending, we’re totally behind,” said Richard Hendrick, general manager at the Port of Albany. Hendrick said the port is in the midst of a $50 million upgrade of its infrastructure, including a new wharf and warehouse, and that dredging silt from the channel and the basin where ships turn around is a constant, and expensive, chore.
“With the tidal movement, we get a lot of silting at our docks,” Hendrick said.
Trump includes ports, roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, waterways and pipelines in his infrastructure program.
And he wants to cut airport wait times and “reform the FAA and TSA,” while keeping travelers safe.
“There is little doubt that the nation’s infrastructure, including our airports and our rail system, require improvement,” said Doug Myers, spokesman for Albany International Airport. “New York state has already taken steps to rebuild LaGuardia Airport and Gov. Cuomo has advanced a $200 million grant competition to modernize upstate airports (that) have commercial air service.
“We anticipate learning more of President-elect Trump’s programs in the weeks and months to come,” Myers added.
“Any public investment in our airports is welcomed,” said John DelBalso, president of the New York Aviation Management Association. “We would look forward to how the president-elect develops this program, and to working with our congressional delegation.”
Trump also pledges to upgrade drinking water and wastewater treatment systems, something that River Keeper, an environmental advocacy group, supports.
“There’s no question the clean-water challenge is a big one,” said John Parker, director of legal programs for the organization. He said some communities still depended on wooden pipes, and he estimated $70 billion would be needed over the next 20 years to upgrade drinking water infrastructure in the state.
“Let’s put people back to work,” fixing the water and wastewater systems, Parker said.
Elmendorf hopes the re-election of New York’s senior U.S. senator, Charles Schumer, who will “likely be the highest ranking Democrat in the country” when he’s expected to become Senate minority leader, also will help.
“He’s long been an advocate” for the state’s infrastructure, Elmendorf said.
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