Trump’s infrastructure budget: MARTA concerned, road funding may escape woes

By David Pendered

The headline on a new analysis of President Trump’s infrastructure agenda, issued by Moody’s Investors Service, seems to summarize the current state of affairs: “Trump’s executive order sheds little light on course of stimulus plan.”

trump infrastruture

President Trump’s initiatives on funding the nation’s roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure have not provided the details needed by civic and financial leaders. Credit: businessinsider.com

The advisory council created by the president has a deadline of December 2018 to issue recommendations on everything from roads and transit to airports, seaports, waterways, pipelines, broadband, renewable energy generation, electricity transmissions – “and other such sectors as determined by the council.”

The executive order of July 19 has done little to answer questions about how the president proposes to fulfill his vision for a $1 trillion infrastructure package included in the budget request Trump released May 23, according to the July 26 report from Moody’s.

In the meantime, Georgia appears to be fairly well positioned to navigate the uncertainty period it comes to transportation. When it comes to transit, not so much.

Regarding road projects, Georgia has raised state revenues and revised policies to fund such projects amid expectations that federal funds would become lean. Georgia also embraced the notion of engaging private partners to help pay for road projects, as in the case with the Transform 285/400 renovation..

For example, Georgia is funding the $800 million remake of the intersection at I-285 and Ga. 400 through a public private partnership. Revenue is coming from federal, state and local sources, as well as private-sector financing. The model is secure – as long as the private sector is willing to invest in such projects.

Moody’s analysts described this outlook of public private partnerships in the Trump budget proposal:

  • “The Transportation Infrastructure Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program would be increased from $285 million authorized for 2018 to $1 billion annual funding over a 10-year period. This could help encourage investments in user-fee funded transportation projects in areas with strong economic growth or high traffic volumes.”
marta, campbellton road

MARTA is counting on federal funding to help pay for expanding transit service along the Campbellon Road corridor. Credit: David Pendered

MARTA faces a starkly different scenario if the president’s budget is approved. MARTA GM/CEO Keith Parker said as much in the quarterly update he presented July 26 to the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee.

  • “It would mean a significant reduction in funds, particularly for major capital projects,” Parker said, adding that transit officials have met with every member of Georgia’s congressional delegation to express concerns about this aspect of the president’s proposal.

Moody’s analysts noted possible major scenarios including:

  • “Major impact wouldn’t be felt before the end of current administration. Most of the $200 billion in direct federal funding would not be available until 2020 and will need to be netted against proposed funding reductions, such as a 13% cut in Department of Transportation funding in 2018, that would affect infrastructure investment. The budget lacks clarity on funding measures and targeted investments, and an infrastructure bill still needs to be introduced and would require Congressional approval.
  • “Transportation PPPs would benefit from TIFIA expansion and liberalization
    of Interstate tolling. The Transportation Infrastructure Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program would be increased from $285 million authorized for 2018 to $1 billion annual funding over a 10-year period. This could help encourage investments in user-fee funded transportation projects in areas with strong economic growth or high traffic volumes.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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