President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday designed to significantly shorten the time it takes federal agencies to approve road, highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects.
The directive is aimed at efficiency and establishes “one Federal decision” for whether major infrastructure projects can proceed, sets a two-year goal for completing reviews and ensures that federal agencies involved in the permitting process are held accountable by setting up a “quarterly scorecard” of their progress.
The order also cuts back on duplicate requests for information and late-stage changes in the approval process, all of which incur more time and money.
President Trump highlighted the need for such a policy by announcing “I just signed a new executive order to dramatically reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process. Just blocks away is the Empire State building. It took 11 months to build. But today, it could take as long as a decade.”
Infrastructure was supposed to be the topic of discussion at the press conference announcing the order, but it veered way off course when reporters continually brought up the recent events in Charlottesville.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao appeared to grow frustrated that topics other than infrastructure kept coming up.
“We’re talking about infrastructure today,” she said. “I’m talking about infrastructure.”
Trump held up a giant flowchart to convey how many agencies and steps are involved in approving a single highway project. To contrast, he displayed a shorter chart to show what the process will look under his new policy.
Trump assembled an infrastructure task force, which has already identified “more than two dozen policies and rules that will streamline project delivery and environmental permitting,” according to Chao. The administration has been clear that their goal is to reduce regulatory red tape.
Critics of the directive worry that efforts to speed up the review process could lead to inadequate environmental reviews.