While real estate heir Donald Trump ran for president, his local boosters advertised him as having the exceptional skill to envision and carry out big development projects.
So far the administration sketched a very general statement of plans to create $1 trillion worth of new infrastructure over 10 years. But with gridlock over health care stalling all such plans, along with tax changes, Congress has yet to even start negotiating, fleshing out or approving any of it.
This holding pattern comes as U.S. senators from the region call on their colleagues and Trump to commit $11 billion for the long-discussed addition of railway tunnels between New York and New Jersey.
The so-called Gateway Tunnel project, approved by the Obama administration, was omitted from Trump’s budget proposal a few months ago.
“We do not want to repeat the mistakes of our past,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a news conference earlier this month with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
Trump leans a lot in his statements on the concept of public-private partnerships such as those used for years around the nation. He said they provide “better procurement methods, market discipline and a long-term focus on maintaining assets.”
But so-called P3s haven’t always worked and nobody calls them a panacea. In Indiana, a private operator filed for bankruptcy, threatening big construction delays. Problems developed in Texas when toll revenue fell short.
This year the American Society of Civil Engineers cited a gap of more than $2.1 trillion between current funding and estimated needs for surface transportation, airports, water, sewers, canals and other projects — standard public works.
While plans and work await, the warnings from critics are in early supply.
Jim Chanos, an investment manager widely known for prescient negative calls regarding the massive scandals involving the firms Enron and Tyco, said this month that as far as spurring growth, Trump’s P3 program is “fake fiscal news.”
“Because private investors need high rates of return, these deals generally haven’t been good deals for anybody,” Chanos said. “We’re told that the private sector will be able to do this better. Well, they might be able to do it better and faster, but only for a small number of projects.”
Chanos made the remarks in a recorded interview with the liberal nonprofit Institute for New Economic Thinking.
No one knows for sure when to expect any real-life results.