Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Trump team compiles infrastructure priority list

In this Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a White House senior staff swearing-in ceremony.
In this Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a White House senior staff swearing-in ceremony. AP

Update: This story has been updated to add details on the origin and circulation of information about potential infrastructure investments and White House comment.

President Donald Trump’s team has compiled a list of about 50 infrastructure projects nationwide, totaling at least $137.5 billion, as the new White House tries to determine its investment priorities, according to documents obtained by McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and The News Tribune.

The preliminary list, provided to the National Governor’s Association by the Trump transition team, offers a first glimpse at which projects around the country might get funding if Trump follows through on his campaign promise to renew America’s crumbling highways, airports, dams and bridges. The governor’s association shared that list with state officials in December. The group told the officials the projects on that list were “already being vetted.”

Among the projects could be a new terminal for the Kansas City airport, upgrades to Interstate 95 in North Carolina and a proposal to replace the nation’s radar-based air traffic control system with one called NextGen, based on satellites.

Another more detailed document obtained by the Star, circulated within the congressional and business communities, proposes funding an almost identical list of 50 projects as public-private partnerships, with half the money coming from private investment.

According to a senior congressional aide, the Trump team put together the priority list of “Emergency & National Security Projects.” It includes cost estimates and job impact numbers.

Another congressional aide told McClatchy on Wednesday that both documents are working drafts that continue to be developed with input from the National Governors Association.

Senate Democrats present a $1 trillion infrastructure bill for the nation's roads, airports, bridges and seaports, which they say would create 15 million jobs over 10 years. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called on President

The projects on the more detailed document are nearly identical to the ones on the spreadsheet circulated by the National Governors Association among state officials in December, seeking further suggestions.

All but two projects on both lists are the same, and they are listed in the same order. The preliminary list circulated by the governor’s association includes the Alaska Pipeline & LNG Project instead of the Texas Central Railway and it lists the Fort Mojave Solar Project instead of the Howard Street Tunnel.

Some projects that governors suggested — in California and Washington state in particular — do not yet appear on either list.

The governors’ association has received 43 responses from states and territories so far, Waskey said.

“The total number of projects is more than 300,” Waskey said. “We are working to convene information for as many states as possible that we will then forward to the administration.”

Some states, such as Missouri, have more than one project listed, while others appear to have come up empty. Neither document lists any projects in Kansas, for example.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said on Wednesday that the more detailed document is “not an official White House document.” While a spokesman for the Trump transition said the Excel file was “not a Transition document,” the National Governor’s Association confirmed to McClatchy again on Wednesday that the group got the spreadsheet as an Excel file from that team.

“The Excel file came to NGA from the transition team,” said Elena Waskey, a spokeswoman for the group. “If they’re saying it’s not a transition team document, I don’t really have an answer for you.”

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The National Governors Association asked governors’ offices last month for input on a preliminary list of infrastructure projects compiled by the Trump team, said Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

“They seek examples of priority infrastructure projects that might be incorporated into a future infrastructure investment program,” said the letter from the governors’ association, dated Dec. 16. “Specifically, the transition team is looking for 3 to 5 project suggestions from each state that they would vet for inclusion in a new program.”

The letter said the vetting would be done by a bipartisan infrastructure commission overseeing investments.

“The initial spend on these projects for 2017 is expected to be $150 billion, and the transition team hopes that this type of project will be continued over the next 2 years,” according to the letter.

The letter also noted that any contributions governors made would not be binding, and that this was “just an initial information-gathering request.”

Once the Trump administration officially took office, the letter said, “there will be a more formal process for states to submit information. Projects will be chosen through a more formal process as well.”

The letter included a list of projects already being vetted, with the request that governors use it as a model for submissions.

It already had the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport expansion on it, so Inslee sent a letter back to the association with five additional possibilities for federal investment.

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office sent nine examples of big shovel-ready projects in California, including the Sacramento River Bank Protection Project and Bay Area Commuter and Freight Projects.

The projects have to meet specific criteria:

▪  A national security or public safety “emergency.”

▪  “Shovel-ready,” with at least 30 percent of initial design and engineering work complete.

▪  Direct job creator.

▪  Project with the potential for increased U.S. manufacturing.

Both the preliminary list and the more detailed document obtained by the Star include a new terminal for Kansas City International Airport. The detailed document says the project would cost $972 million and generate 1,000 jobs.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens declined to comment.

The Kansas City airport is one of three airport projects on the spreadsheet circulated by the governor’s association. The others are expansions of the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“The business case for a new terminal was bolstered after Southwest and the other airlines told the City Council on April 26 that they would finance the nearly $1 billion new terminal, to be built where Terminal A is now,” reads the more detailed document’s description for KCI, which lifts word-for-word a passage in a June 24 article in The Star.

In North Carolina, the I-95 project would provide urgent improvements to one of the oldest sections of the busiest interstate in the nation, according to the document. The cost is listed at $1.5 billion, and the project would produce an estimated 5,400 jobs, the document says.

The 250-mile high-speed railway in Texas would enable commuters to travel between Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth in less than 90 minutes, according to the document. It is a $12 billion proposal that would create 40,000 direct jobs, the document says.

A $12-billion high-speed rail system could transform transportation in the Lone Star State.

Other proposals include I-395 reconstruction in Florida and a Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project designed to conserve billions of gallons of renewable groundwater in California’s Mojave Desert.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday proposed their own $1 trillion plan to fund infrastructure projects over a 10-year period. Democrats say their proposal would create more than 15 million jobs.

Horsley and Vockrodt of The Kansas City Star reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Orenstein of The News Tribune reported from Tacoma, Washington. Wise and Anita Kumar of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau contributed from Washington.

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