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State of the Union Address to push Trump’s infrastructure plan that calls for public-private partnerships and weakening of environmental protections, says expert

Kevin Heaslip
Kevin Heaslip, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech

President Trump will unveil his infrastructure plan at the State of the Union Address that will be reliant on the success of public-private partnerships to invest in roads, bridges and highways nationwide and the weakening of environmental protections, says Virginia Tech expert Kevin Heaslip.

The proposed plan is expected to call for $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years to result in $1 trillion infrastructure investment. Heaslip says “the plan also suggests rolling back important environmental protections to push projects along without proper oversight from federal regulatory agencies.”

Quoting Heaslip

“Much of the infrastructure that the U.S. relies on for economic activity and growth is reaching its useful life expectancy and significant funds are necessary for reconstruction or replacement,” says Kevin Heaslip, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

“Using federal money as an incentive for private investment in infrastructure will work well for projects that can produce revenue, including toll roads and airports, but the return on investment for larger scale projects, such as a road through a small town, is unclear,” says Heaslip.

“It’s critical that ongoing operations and maintenance of the infrastructure is regulated or aggressively denoted in the contracts that establish the public-private partnership. In successful partnerships, these ongoing costs are addressed vigorously in the contracting process.”

For example, Heaslip explains that Virginia has been successful in the development and implementation of public-private partnerships where private companies have added capacity and repurposed High Occupancy Vehicle lanes into High Occupancy Toll lanes, which are utilized to increase the time reliability of the trip for drivers and has provided steady streams of revenue for the private companies investing in the infrastructure.

“Common sense review of regulations is needed to balance the maintenance of environmental quality and the need to reduce the time for design and construction and in turn the overall project cost,” says Heaslip. 

About Heaslip
Kevin Heaslip is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in The Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His areas of expertise include measurement of system resilience, transportation resilience, transportation engineering, public transportation, and urban transportation planning. View his full bio here.

Interview
To secure an interview with Heaslip, please contact Shannon Andrea in the media relations office at sandrea@vt.edu or 703-399-9494. 

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