Trump Announces Proposal To Privatize Air Traffic Control

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to focus attention on his infrastructure agenda this week – and it started with an announcement of his plan to privatize control over the air traffic control system, reports The Washington Times The move would place a new, quasi-governmental nonprofit over the system, rather than the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees it now. From The Washington Times:

The bold move to dislodge air traffic control (ATC) from the Federal Aviation Administration and create a quasi-independent, nonprofit corporation to do the job is a fitting kickoff for Mr. Trump’s weeklong focus on his infrastructure agenda.

Like the rest of the plan, it is more government reform than spending spree and faces furious pushback form the left and the Washington establishment. …

U.S. air traffic control is the largest and most complex system of its kind in the world. As with much of America’s infrastructure, however, ATC is aging and in bad need of modernization.

“There are enormous benefits for all U.S. citizens in doing this and we are very excited about this,” said [Director of the president’s National Economic Council Gary] Cohn.

A non-government ATC, he said, will save money for passengers, upgrade the system from land-based radar to a GPS system and improve efficiency and safety.

Critics warn that privatization could risk safety and national security. They argue that this could lead to the creation of a mega company dominated by major airlines and there would be little incentive for it to support general aviation and rural airports. …

“There is money to make sure rural airports get protected,” Mr. Cohn said of the administration’s plan.

At a Rose Garden event Monday, Mr. Trump will announce a set of legislative principles for an overhaul of air traffic control that he is sending to Congress.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to deliver remarks Wednesday beside the Ohio River in Kentucky to highlight plans for long-overdue upgrades to inland waterways. He will hold listening sessions Thursday at the White House with governors and mayors, and end the week at the Department of Transportation talking about highway and railway projects.

The president’s budget proposal included $200 billion for an infrastructure program that is supposed to leverage a total public-private investment of $1 trillion over 10 years.

Central to the plan are proposals to slash regulations and streamline permits, cutting the average approval process for highway projects and other major construction from 10 years to two years or less.

Governing reported on President Trump’s infrastructure plan in its report on his proposed budget:

Trump has promised a $1 trillion investment in our nation’s infrastructure. His budget finally provides some clues as to how he’ll do that.

For starters, Trump proposes spreading $200 billion in federal investment out over 10 years, starting with $5 billion in 2018, ramping up to $50 billion by 2021 and then gradually sinking back to $5 billion.

The budget says the federal investment will be supplemented with “incentivized non-federal funding,” expedited projects and revising or eliminating cumbersome regulations. “Simply providing more federal funding for infrastructure is not the solution,” the budget reads. “Rather, we will work to fix underlying incentives, procedures and policies to spur better and more efficient infrastructure decisions and outcomes across a range of sectors, including surface transportation, airports, waterways, ports, drinking and wastewater, broadband and key federal facilities.”

The Takeaway: While the outline of infrastructure priorities is a start, most folks are worried about the overall picture. Namely, Trump’s proposed budget cuts more than $2 billion from the Department of Transportation next year.

Mass transit is also of particular concern. According to Moody’s Investors Service, transit agencies rely on federal funding for nearly half of their capital funding. Trump proposes eliminating any new grants from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program. The rationale: “Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” according to the budget.