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Infrastructure fizzles in State of the Union address

President Donald Trump's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Feb. 5 was light, at best, on details about an infrastructure plan, but that the term was included at all is enough for elected officials and infrastructure stakeholders to consider it a win.

The president mentioned the term "infrastructure" four times during his speech according to the official transcript provided by The White House. Sandwiched between trade and healthcare was his brief call for a bipartisan push to to improve the "America's crumbling infrastructure."

"I know that the Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill -- and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future. This is not an option. This is a necessity," said President Trump.

American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Paul Skoutelas said the association was pleased the president highlighted infrastructure and noted the association will work with the administration and Congress toward including public transportation in infrastructure investment. APTA cited a recent joint poll by itself and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) that found 90 percent of American support increased investment in the nation's infrastructure.

"Increased investment in public transportation infrastructure will help build stronger communities. Every dollar invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns," said Skoutelas. "Americans know that investing in projects that improve public transportation and our highways, waterways and bridges will improve their quality of life and help grow their communities for decades to come. Americans are united in their support for infrastructure investment because they recognize the great need—a backlog of more than $90 billion to bring the nation's public transportation systems up to a state of good repair. The message is loud and clear: Invest in rebuilding America now."

ARTBA President and CEO Dave Bauer said, "The last two federal surface transportation investment laws were achieved during eras of divided government. This time should be no different. A permanent revenue solution to the chronic shortfall plaguing the Highway Trust Fund should be the foundational priority for any infrastructure package. It’s time to stop talking about investing in infrastructure and get to work fixing it.”

Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) issued a statement that also noted the roadblock the Highway Trust Fund crisis will have to a larger investment in infrastructure.

"We face a $1 trillion surface transportation investment gap over the next 10 years to fix the infrastructure we have, meet future needs and restore our global competitiveness. Any serious infrastructure proposal must provide sustainable, long-term federal funding so we can make these necessary investments, create millions of living-wage American jobs, increase economic growth and decrease congestion and emissions," said Rep. DeFazio.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), who is the House T&I Committee's Ranking Member, said, "The President was crystal clear to the American people that he wants to cut the congestion we all face in our daily lives, fix our roads and bridges and modernize our waterways, ports, railways and airports. It’s up to Congress to work together and with the administration to find common ground on issues that pose real threats to the future of our infrastructure network. We need infrastructure solutions that address our long-term funding issues, cut the time and costs involved in the project delivery process, and recognize that a modern economy demands the safe and timely integration of 21st century technology.”

The House T&I Committee will convene its first hearing for the 116th Congress on Feb. 7 titled, "“The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Investing in Our Nation’s Infrastructure Cannot Wait.”

On the other side of the Hill, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing on Feb. 13 titled, “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy."

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