President Trump's $200 billion plan to rebuild America upends the criteria that have long been used to pick ambitious federal projects, putting little emphasis on how much an infrastructure proposal benefits the public and more on finding private investors and other outside sources of money.

Unveiled on Monday, the infrastructure program that Mr. Trump has championed since the campaign is intended to attract a huge amount of additional money from states, localities and private investors. The goal is to generate a total pot of $1.5 trillion to upgrade the country's highways, airports and railroads.

Those financial priorities are crystallized in the new guidelines established by the White House. The ability to find sources of funding outside the federal government will be the most important yardstick, accounting for 70 percent of the formula for choosing infrastructure projects. How "the project will spur economic and social returns on investment" ranks at the bottom, at just 5 percent.


The president's plan recasts the federal government as a minority stakeholder in the nation's new infrastructure projects. Half of the $200 billion promised over 10 years will be used for incentives to spur even greater contributions from states, localities and the private sector. Mr. Trump also wants to speed up the approval process.

The White House budget, separately released on Monday, also gives federal agencies the authority to sell assets that would be better managed by state, local or private entities in cases where a sale would "optimize taxpayer value." The budget suggests that Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles International Airports could be among the assets ripe for new owners.

Coming up with the $200 billion in federal funding will not be easy. Republicans have already ballooned the deficit in last week's spending agreement and with their tax cuts. Democrats are unlikely to go along with cuts that would offset the cost of Mr. Trump's plan.


"... they're putting out incentive programs that don't have to generate national or regional economic developments," said Ms. Knopman, the lead author of a new 110-page RAND report on transportation and water infrastructure in the United States. "It may happen, but that's not what they're interested in and that's not the way they're screening these projects."


One analysis by the Penn-Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania said that other pieces of the White House budget could end up reducing federal infrastructure spending by $55 billion over 10 years -- despite the president's new plan.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and the president of the conservative American Action Forum, complimented aspects of the president's initiative that dealt with streamlining regulations and using federal credit guarantees. But he doubted the promised total could be reached.

"It's hard to get the $200 billion to $1.5 trillion, if you do the arithmetic," he said.

More pretend, fantasy stuff from Trump.

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