Trump infrastructure plan gets mixed reviews in Alaska

U.S. President Donald Trump shows off a large binder with highway permitting documents on the stage during his remarks on infrastructure improvements, at the Department of Transportation in Washington, U.S. June 9, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
The White House has presented its long promised infrastructure plan. It’s getting mixed reviews from Alaska’s U.S. senators.

“You’ve got a specific set aside for rural infrastructure. That’s good,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said. “But the devil is going to be in the details here.”

Murkowski says she’ll examine the funding rules to make sure Alaska can benefit from the $50 billion intended for rural areas.

Nationally, President Trump’s plan is to build $1.5 trillion in transportation projects and public works, but the federal government would put up just $200 billion. The rest would come from state, local and private funds.

Doubts in Alaska

Murkowski has her doubts about private investment.

“We know that in Alaska, trying to pay for things by way of a toll road, that’s not going to work for us,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski also cast doubt on the state’s ability to provide significant matching funds. More subtly, she says she’ll be on the lookout for requirements that include cost/benefit ratios. Alaska projects cost a lot and benefit relatively few people. Alaska doesn’t do well when federal funding requests are judged on per-capita costs, Murkowski said.

“It’s criteria like that, that for me could be not only very worrisome, that could really be a death knell for a state like Alaska in our ability to be treated fairly,” Murkowski said.

A partisan exercise

Murkowski said she’ll learn more about the infrastructure proposal at a White House meeting Wednesday for committee chairs. The top Democrats on each committee were invited, too. Murkowski took that as a good sign, indicating the White House isn’t intending the proposal as a partisan exercise.

Sen. Dan Sullivan is pleased the plan includes environmental permitting reform, to speed up the time it takes to get a project started. He says regulatory efficiency is an idea that appeals to Republicans and Democrats.

Environmental groups, though, say the plan would weaken environmental safeguards.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: North American Arctic is failing compared to Russia, Nordics, warns think tank,  Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: What the EU seal ban has meant for Inuit communities in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Could we eventually see an Arctic Free Trade Zone?, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Building new state governance in Russian Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Northern Swedish city gets Europe’s largest battery factory, Radio Sweden

United States: When US Senators listen to Arctic voices, only some resonate, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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