America's Infrastructure Given Poor Grade, Will Trump Budget Save it?

Published: March 22, 2017

Architecture Engineering and ConstructionTransportation

Over the past 50 days, we have seen glimpses of President Donald Trump’s budget. More specifically, Trump has made it known since the campaign trail that the nation’s crumbling infrastructure was a major priority. So much so that he called for a $1 trillion investment and during his address to Congress, stated that, “Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.” However, the question regarding Trump’s investment promise still remains: where will the money come from and how will it be spent?

Just today, Trump’s budget proposal was released, giving us some insight into how the Department of Transportation (DOT) budget will shape up. The DOT’s funding has a proposed cut of 13%, down to $16.2 billion. Additionally, part of the proposal would be to eliminate a fund that provides nearly $500 million in road projects. Despite these cuts, the document states that the DOT will be “focused on performing vital Federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects.” The problem is that these facts are a bit contradictory. It will inevitably be more difficult to implement local transportation projects with a decreased budget.

Another component of the budget cuts is the elimination of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program. The program provided funding to states for projects that often could not receive funding through a federal program. Many of these are programs that are multi-jurisdictional and promote economic development and improve transportation. Without this program, it’s possible that private companies might pick up the slack, with Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) an option Trump has floated in the past.

Hanging over these possible cuts is a recent infrastructure report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) giving America’s infrastructure a D+. The previous report, from 2013, gave the same D+ grade. The report measures 16 different areas and also provides state-by-state grades. There are far too many recommendations to name here, but the overall consensus is that a planned approach to investment in infrastructure is essential to the integrity of many roadways, bridges, dams and other waterways. In essence, the $1 trillion proposed by Trump will not be enough.

Because we only have Trump’s budget proposal and nothing is even close to being finalized at this point, it’s hard to know for certain what programs will be cut, if any. It’s also possible that Trump’s infrastructure program could end up with even more funding and be able to truly provide the repairs and updates to the failing bridges and roadways that are needed. Whichever route the Federal Government ends up taking, Deltek will ascertain how it might affect Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms, as the funding for many state and local projects could end up changing.