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Chamber officials encouraged by Trump’s transportation plan

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Missouri ranks in the top five in the United States with 1,400 interstate highway miles, according to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and as such, state business officials are looking to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion national infrastructure plan to have a direct impact on the state.

The plan leans on state and local sources for much of the funding as they partner with the federal government, according to state chamber officials who held a Transportation Future Summit on Feb. 22 in Jefferson City. The transportation proposal, championed in Trump’s presidential campaigning and highlighted in the State of the Union address Jan. 30, suggests $200 billion coming from federal funding in an attempt to jumpstart local governments into the investment, according to multiple media reports.

Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Morrow said he was excited about the direction this proposal could send Springfield.

“It’s encouraging to see this focus on modernizing our nation’s infrastructure,” Morrow said. “We’ve continually supported strong partnerships between local, state and federal entities that can maximize available dollars through collaboration.

“There’s certainly potential in finding ways to expedite new projects and leverage federal dollars to boost private-sector investment. We look forward to working with our federal elected leaders as they develop ideas to address our transportation and infrastructure needs.”

In a 53-page report prepared by the White House titled, “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America,” the federal funding components are broken down:

• $100 billion available for the Infrastructure Incentives Program;

• $50 billion for the Rural Infrastructure Program for capital improvements;

• $20 billion for the Transformative Projects Program;

• $20 billion in infrastructure financing, such as existing federal credits and the use of private activity bonds; and

• $10 billion for a federal capital financing fund.

The report, signed by “The White House,” reads: “To help build a better future for all Americans, I ask the Congress to act soon on an infrastructure bill that will stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next 10 years, shorten the process for approving projects to two years or less, address unmet rural infrastructure needs, empower state and local authorities, and train the American workforce of the future.”

Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Dan Mehan told Springfield Business Journal it’s critical Missouri take advantage of the president’s infrastructure plan.

According to state chamber data, Missouri is within 500 miles of 43 percent of the U.S. population, 41 percent of the total U.S. buying power, 44 percent of total U.S. wholesale trade and 44 percent of all U.S. manufacturing plants.

“We think this plan is a good start after Missouri has been pining away for years,” Mehan said. “It’s overwhelmingly recognized here how important this is for us.”

According to a report by the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force, the Show-Me State ranks 47th in revenue raised per highway mile, and the largest source of revenue comes from a 17-cent gas tax.

“There needs to be a change on how transportation can go from a cost to an asset,” Mehan said. “And we haven’t touched the gas tax in a long time, so I would say it’s mission critical.”

According to the report, the gas tax was last raised in 1996. The 17-cent tax is the fourth-lowest in the country, and so, the report suggested an increase to the fuel tax by 10 cents on gasoline and 12 cents on diesel per gallon.

“I think we are at a critical juncture in the next two years, because it’s time to step up and unite as a state in this,” Mehan said.

Bob Brendel, special assignments coordinator for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the department is still in the process of evaluating Trump’s infrastructure plan for its impact on Missouri. Brendel said the department does not have any comment on the matter at this time.


Editor Eric Olson contributed.

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