Bridges, roads, tunnels, oh my! Every state in the union wants these types of infrastructure in bulk, and they expect Trump to provide. The Trump transition team is even asking for it, by collecting wish lists of states via the governors association. This is to make it easier for the new administration to be “shovel ready” with infrastructure projects. Just one thing though. Where is all of the money, to the tune of $137.5 billion, going to come from for these bulk-ordered infrastructure projects?
How to Cover Infrastructure Costs
According to Trump, toll roads will attract private investors to provide regular revenue. The theory behind this is that toll roads become a commodity that is worth investing in. For toll roads that rack in the dough with toll fees, this could be a golden goose for some private investor or company. As such these companies would theoretically be interested in becoming private owners in these roads. In addition to taking on the costs of maintaining these toll roads, these companies would also be tasked with any improvements to the infrastructure they now own.
There are all kinds of concerns here. First of all, there has never been a positive outcome of any private investor of public infrastructure. This is because roads have to be maintained and improved no matter what the economy. When an economy is in the dumps, these investors drop their investments like dead flies. Which investments do you think they’ll likely leave behind first, ones that have little overhead or are a major commitment? Exactly. The public infrastructure belonging to one private company will now be put on the auction block for the highest bidder. This creates a private market of public roads, bridges, airports, and tunnels, which is simply not viable when dealing with publicly accessed infrastructure.
Infrastructure Costs Down the Line
According to Bloomberg a private investment simply isn’t up to par for public infrastructure. Money has to be rolling in regularly to handle the expense of water systems and highways and airports. According to Mercator Advisors Bryan Grote, “I don’t really think there’s going to be much point to a large financing scheme if you’re not addressing the underlying revenue problem, especially tolls, if you’re really focused on private equity.” By sticking with private investments via toll roads Trump is ignoring the elephant in the infrastructure.
There is an expected loss of $1.4 trillion in aviation, drinking water, electricity, bridges, and roads by 2025 according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Worse yet the US economy is going to lose 2.5 million jobs if this deficient isn’t overcome. Bridges need to be rebuilt. Roads need to be rerouted. Airports need, above all, completely updated computer systems. All of this costs a ton, trillions to be exact. But finding a way to pay for it isn’t as cut and dry as forcing toll road expenses on the trucking industry, in order to attract private investors.
Truck Drivers and Companies to Pay First
But wait, who pays the tolls on toll roads to get the ball rolling? The truck driving industry, that’s who. Trucking companies like Olsen and Fielding Mayflower, Magnum Express and K&B Transportation. This implies that the trucking industry is willing to fork out toll payments, which are set to increase under this administration. Unfortunately this is a part of the plan that Trump’s team of advisors may have overlooked. As it turns out trucking companies and owner operators are not interested in paying extra at the tolls in order to attract these potential investors.
Then there are the states that aren’t willing to add toll roads to their infrastructure. Take Kentucky, for example, where the state refused to approve new tolls to do just what Trump wants to do, attract private investors. The Brent Spence Bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio is more than half a century old and by all means outdated. It would cost Kentucky $2.5 billion to replace the bridge, which is one of the busiest truck driving routes in the nation. The only plan that came around for paying for this bridge was tolls, which the state refused to go with. This is because tolls are tough on the trucking industry, taking money out of this economically vital area in order to cover road costs.
Trucking Companies Put Up a Fight
The trucking industry as well as trucking companies simply do not want to be responsible for fitting the bill of infrastructure. Even before this toll road legislation has been passed, a trucking alliance including all 50 state trucking associations, UPS and McDonald’s has banned together to fight. According to Bloomberg this alliance is “ready to fight any attempt to expand the use of levies or relax a 1958 restriction on tolling existing interstates.” Simply put, the economic fallout of the nation’s biggest companies in order to say no to tolls would be devastating. It would be devastating to the nation’s financial status, as well as to the President’s ability to push forward with any of the administration’s other economic plans.
The American Trucking Associations Darrin Roth points out that setting up toll roads costs more and is less efficient compared to regular taxes. Why not just increase taxes to truckers, rather than doing so to attract private companies who will take on infrastructure expenses and projects? The bottom line is the Trump administration wants to reduce government oversight, and having the government in charge of public infrastructure is part of his reductions. By having private companies own America’s infrastructure, sure it will take off the burden of cost by the government. But at what cost to the general public, and the truck driving industry in particular? What will roads be like when they are managed by business owners hoping to save a buck?