The Anderson Memorial Bridge between Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, sits near the heart of Harvard University. The structure’s elegant arches and Georgian Revival design help it blend seamlessly into the surrounding architectural style of America’s oldest college.
It took 11 months to build the original bridge in 1912. When it came time to repair it nearly 100 years later, the project dragged on for close to 5 years—and at a significant cost overrun.
So with all the advantages of modern technology, why did it take more than 5 times as long to repair the structure today as it did to create it outright more than a century ago? Unsurprisingly, the reason has little to do with engineering or technical demands. Rather, the Anderson Bridge project was a victim of a bloated, tangled patchwork of regulatory oversight, including a historical commission, environmental agencies, and state transportation bureaucrats, among others.
“We built the Empire State Building in just 1 year—is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?,” President Donald J. Trump asked during his first State of the Union Address on January 30. “Any bill must . . . streamline the permitting and approval process—getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.”
This week, President Trump released his Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America, a 53-page document that lays out six principles for reversing this unacceptable course. Here is what the President is calling upon Congress to help him achieve:
- $200 billion in Federal funding to spur at least $1.5 trillion in investments. Federal infrastructure spending will promote State, local, and private investments and maximize the value of every taxpayer dollar. Of this $200 billion, $100 billion will create an Incentives Program that will promote accountability by making Federal funding conditional on projects meeting agreed upon milestones.
- A $50 billion investment in infrastructure for Rural America. The bulk of the dollars in the Rural Infrastructure Program will be allocated to State governors, giving States the flexibility to prioritize their communities’ needs.
- Empowerment of State and local authorities. The President’s plan would return decision-making authority to the State and local level, including by expanding processes that allow environmental review and permitting decisions to be delegated to States.
- Elimination of barriers that prevent efficient development and management of infrastructure projects. For example, more flexibility will be provided to transportation projects that have minimal Federal funding but are currently required to seek Federal review and approval.
- Streamlined permitting to simplify the approval process. Working with Congress to establish a “one agency, one decision” structure for environmental reviews will shorten approval processes while protecting natural resources.
- Investment in America’s most important asset: its people. The President’s plan would reform Federal education and workforce development programs to better prepare Americans to perform the in-demand jobs of today and the future.
“No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay,” President Trump said in August. “We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel.”
That hard work has already begun. In its first year, the Trump Administration has rolled back regulations at an unprecedented clip and approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines. Now, the time has come to make a sustained investment in America’s future.
“Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress,” the President says. “Washington will now be your partner.”