President Donald Trump’s new infrastructure plan calls for a federal investment of $200 billion over 10 years, with a quarter of it set aside for rural projects, which could benefit states like Iowa.
However, the plan relies heavily on private money and state and local government expenditures if it is to reach the $1.5 trillion investment the president has said would be devoted to fixing the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The long-anticipated release Monday of the White House plan follows a promise the president made in the 2016 campaign to make rebuilding a priority.
The 55-page plan would devote $100 billion to roads, bridges, waterways, flood control and other areas; another $50 billion for rural infrastructure needs; $20 billion for what it calls a “transformative projects program,” and the rest for other programs, like financing.
The part targeted to rural areas won praise from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
"I am extremely happy that a percentage of that is dedicated to rural Iowa infrastructure,” she said at her weekly news conference.
It’s not clear how the money would be doled out. The plan calls for a formula to be based on “rural lane miles and rural population,” consistent with overall objectives.
It also would guarantee a minimum amount for each state, as well as set a maximum. It also would give states more flexibility to establish tolls. A spokesperson for the governor said she "has not contemplated using tolls on highways."
A Farm Bureau analysis of the outlines of the plan, released last week, said if the money distributed to states was based on just lane miles, Iowa would get a maximum of $1.3 billion, one of the highest figures for any state in the country. But if it were based only on population, that number would fall to $734 million.
Democrats in Congress weren't impressed Monday.
Early on, they said they were interested in working with the president on infrastructure. But previous Democratic proposals have included greater federal investment and relied less on the private sector.
"I remain concerned that this plan fails to inject sufficient funding into rural communities, and it puts too much funding responsibility on states, counties, and towns that are not able to fund the large projects that are needed to improve our infrastructure," Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said.
Infrastructure is a persistent need in the Quad-Cities. Among the area’s challenges, according to the Quad-Cities' long-term transportation plan, is the gap between bridges and where people live and work and where they want to go.
Currently, construction of the new I-74 bridge is underway. The plan also lists replacement of the I-80 bridge as a long-term goal. That would be a $500 million project.
Other major projects could include improvement of the last stretch of the I-74 corridor, from Middle Road to 53rd Street. It hasn't been funded and carries a $154 million price tag.
There also have been discussions over the years of widening the stretch of I-80 between I-74 and U.S. 61.
The Trump infrastructure plan would mark a significant change, too, for how maintenance and construction is done at locks and dams, like those on the Mississippi River.
Traditionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has overseen the work, but the Trump plan would open the door for private entities or non-federal governments, along with the use of fees for improvements.
"The Administration infrastructure proposal actually seems to mean that commercial operators and shippers are the only ones who will be expected to pay, and significantly more, for the Nation’s waterways transportation system, despite being just one beneficiary of the lock and dam system," said Mike Toohey, who is the president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc.
The administration said that centering operations in the Corps prevents less costly alternatives from being used and causes backlogs.
As part of the overall plan, the administration says it wants to cut the amount of time it takes to get projects built.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday rebuilding infrastructure is important but so far he is studying the plan's details.
"I’m in the process of evaluating what is included in this proposal and how it would affect Iowa. I’m particularly interested in how it will be funded," he said.