America’s aging bridges, roads, and waterways are in a need of a serious facelift.
President Trump has promised $1 trillion to fix the nation’s crumbling bridges and highways. Few details of the plan are known, but both Democrats and Republicans support infrastructure spending.
One GOP senator is pushing for changes to what he sees are burdensome federal regulations that are delaying major infrastructure projects.
"When you want to build something in America now it takes literally years, years to get the federal permit, whether it’s a pipeline, a road, a bridge, a new airport runway, it takes years, sometimes decades" said Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan.
The Alaska lawmaker believes reforming the federal permitting process will help get major infrastructure projects off the ground faster.
In an effort to speed up the environmental review and permitting process, Sullivan has introduced the “Rebuild America Now Act."
"We don’t want to cut corners on the environment. In my state, a strong, environment a pristine environment, is one of the amazing things about Alaska; but we also need roads, and we also need bridges, and we also need economic development.”
The 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, requires federal agencies to consider the community and environmental impacts of federal projects -- which allows the public to weigh in.
“I think when you do a major infrastructure project you need to know how it’s going to affect the environment, that is just common sense," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat representing Ohio.
Sullivan argues the environmental studies take too long which causes project delays.
"These studies are now numbered in the thousands of pages they take millions of dollars to produce and absolutely nobody reads,” Sullivan said. “Except for the people who are going to sue to stop the projects."
However, environmental and public health advocate, Scott Slesinger, legislative director of Natural Resources Defense Council, says that’s not true and Sullivan is using outdated statistics.
He adds the reason for project delays is lack of funding from Congress.
The problem isn’t approvals and public participation, it’s the fact that the government doesn’t spend money on roads on sewage treatment and it’s hurting the country," Slesinger said.
Congress is first tackling tax reform and then plans to move on to an infrastructure bill next.