President Trump heading to Cincinnati to talk infrastructure

The stage where President Trump will speak Wednesday afternoon in Cincinnati (Justin Kraus / WDTN Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will discuss his plans for a $1 trillion overhaul of the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and waterways during a speech in Ohio Wednesday.

As the White House tries to push past a series of distractions and focus on Trump’s legislative agenda, the president will travel to the Rivertowne Marina on the Ohio River in Cincinnati to deliver a speech that will press efforts to repair the nation’s aging levees, dams, locks and ports, as well as his larger infrastructure aims.

The White House has yet to detail specifics of the plan, which it hopes to achieve largely through public-private partnerships. It has proposed funding the improvements with $200 billion in tax breaks over nine years that would — in theory — leverage $1 trillion worth of construction.

The speech comes a day before former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify in front of Congress and as the White House faces new allegations about possible efforts by the president to influence the investigation into potential ties between his campaign and Russia. Trump has denied the allegations and called the Russia story “fake news.”

The nation’s inland waterways are key routes for transporting agricultural products, but officials say they’ve grown old and run down.

“We have 12,000 miles of inland waterways in the United States. It’s a critical component of our nation’s transportation infrastructure,” White House economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters last week.

The White House did not provide details on the waterways plan, but spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Monday that the president would “speak about his wide-ranging vision for rebuilding our country.”

“The president will present his sustainable solution to this problem in Ohio on Wednesday,” she said.

The White House has billed this “infrastructure week” and planned a series of events, beginning with a push by the president Monday to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system and separate it from the Federal Aviation Administration. The president is also expected to host governors and mayors at the White House Thursday for a listening session focused on the efficient use of tax dollars for infrastructure projects.

While infrastructure was initially seen as an area where Republican and Democrats could work together, Democrats have balked at Trump’s plans for financing improvements, arguing they would result in taxpayer-funded corporate profits, with costs offloaded on consumers.

Mike Toohey, president of the Waterways Council Inc, an inland waterways infrastructure advocacy group, said he was pleased to see the president addressing what he called the “silent r” of the transportation system — rivers. Far more attention is usually paid to roadways, railways and runways, he said.

Still, he said the industry is concerned about Trump’s recent budget proposal, which he said could result in higher costs for the commercial users that finance the waterways’ upkeep.

As a candidate, Trump had promised to invest big money in Cincinnati’s infrastructure, including Interstate 71 and the overcrowded Brent Spence Bridge.

During a campaign stop in Wilmington Ohio last year, Trump said he would redirect billions of dollars in payments to the United Nations to combat climate change and “use that money to invest in America,” including replacing the double-decker bridge.

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