February 20, 2019

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Pushing the agenda

Efforts to progress the Gateway Project show the growing frustration for action from Washington
Pushing the agenda

“Given the current federal government shutdown,” the letter said, “we are calling today for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to publish the Final EIS and to issue a positive record of decision on the Hudson Tunnel Project”.

While bringing the shutdown into the equation might be viewed by some as an overtly political move, there is no doubting that the GDC is frustrated by the lack of movement on its project. And it is not alone. Many in the P3 market had seen President Donald Trump’s election over two years ago as a major boost for the sector, with much talk of a $1trn infrastructure proposal that placed P3s at the heart of the plan.

However, we are now into the second half of Trump’s first term and any signs of that plan remain sketchy. No-one is quite sure whether the president still favors the P3 model. Indeed, support from the federal government for the Gateway program might be considered a positive sign that the White House does, in fact, want to see more private finance pouring into public infrastructure.

Rumors have emerged over recent days that Trump is looking to resurrect his infrastructure plan and that he convened a cabinet meeting to discuss the initiative last week. There have even been reports that there could be something announced in his State of the Union address.

One report, though, suggested the president has gone cool on his original P3 plans and no longer sees the model as effective. We won’t know for sure until the plan is in place, but it does seem unlikely that Trump could find support for $1trn of public money to pay for it.

We have, though, been here before. Even if Trump were to make an announcement that was positive on P3s, the difference between words and action can be quite a chasm.

The shutdown is also having an impact. As we reported last week, the Army Corps of Engineers has been forced to delay its planned request for information on its P3 plans. It means there’s a growing number of infrastructure initiatives backing up as the shutdown continues.

Meanwhile, states are simply getting on with things. Over the past week alone, we have seen Hawaii, Illinois and Denver all make progress on various P3 programs, showing that the appetite for private involvement in public infrastructure has not been particularly dampened at that level.

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Efforts to progress the Gateway Project show the growing frustration for action from Washington

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