BOSTON — The plan to generate a $1.5 trillion investment in infrastructure proposed Monday by President Donald Trump "will not in any way change the fundamentals" or result in new infrastructure in Massachusetts, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey said.
Predicting "a monumental battle" on the issue ahead, Markey said the $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan released by the White House on Monday is actually "one big monetary mirage" and a "fraud."
"It would only commit $200 billion of direct federal investment over 10 years. President Trump somehow wants to make $200 billion to turn into $1.5 trillion. There is an old saying that a vision without funding is a hallucination. That is what President Trump is trying to propose today," Markey said at a press conference in Boston.
"At best, (it) only makes a dent in the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to repair our bridges, repair our highways, rebuild America's schools and address our nation's water infrastructure, waterway and public transportation needs."
The administration expects that its infrastructure plan will "stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next 10 years, shorten the process for approving projects to 2 years or less, address unmet rural infrastructure needs, empower State and local authorities, and train the American workforce of the future," according to an outline of the plan published by the White House.
In a letter that accompanied his proposal, Trump wrote that the country's infrastructure is "in an unacceptable state of disrepair, which damages our country’s competitiveness and our citizens' quality of life."
Though the White House did not detail exactly how it would pay for the infrastructure plan, which was released Monday in tandem with the president's fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, Markey said the administration is planning to make cuts to other transportation programs like Amtrak, federal transit grants and the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program.
"The Trump infrastructure proposal does not increase the pie of transportation funding, it takes the existing pie and it cuts the slices differently, and it's cutting a smaller slice for Massachusetts," Chris Dempsey, director of Transportation for Massachusetts, said at Markey's press conference. "The Trump proposal will mean less bus service in Springfield and Worcester, fewer bridges fixed in Lowell, Lawrence and Holyoke, a bumpier ride on the Mass. Pike and (Interstate) 93, less reliable trains in Quincy and Cambridge, and more potholes, more frustration, less access and worse mobility statewide."
Trump's infrastructure plan proposes $200 billion in spending over 10 years — largely in the form of competitive grants that could encourage cities and states to raise their own money for infrastructure — with the expectation that the spending will lead to $1.5 trillion in total new investment.
Of the $200 billion of direct federal spending, $100 billion would be spent in the form of incentive grants to states, $50 billion would be set aside for rural infrastructure to be awarded based on a yet-to-be-developed formula, $20 billion for "bold, innovative and transformative" infrastructure projects, and existing federal credit programs would benefit to the tune of $14 billion. A variety of programs would absorb the balance of the funding.
"Funds awarded to State and local authorities, such as through the Incentives Program and the Rural Infrastructure Program, will be allocated to infrastructure projects they prioritize," the administration wrote in its plan. "This empowers States and localities to make more infrastructure investment decisions and prioritize projects based on the needs of their communities."
But that aspect of Trump's plan did not sit well Monday morning with state transportation officials or Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoff Beckwith, who represents the state's cities and towns. He said the president's plan is "a major disappointment" for Mass. municipalities.
"What we need is a president and a federal government that provides a strong cable of support that can pull us up and help support and leverage true and real investment," he said. "Unfortunately, the plan being unveiled today is a thread that won't be able to lift up much at all."
Beckwith joined Markey on Monday and said that the recent practice has been that the federal government will provide $4 for every $1 a state or local government invests in public infrastructure. But under the plan announced Monday, Beckwith said, that equation would flip and that "cities and towns and states would have to find 92.3 percent of the money" for infrastructure projects.
"Well if we at the local level had 92 percent of the money that would enable us to pave more roads, we would be doing that now. If we had 92 percent of funding for schools, we would do more school projects than we're doing now," he said. "If we had 92 percent more money to fund our water and sewer infrastructure systems, we'd be doing that now."