Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price is just back from a trip to the nation's capital. She was the only Texan at Monday’s White House ceremony where President Trump unveiled his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
“It's a very robust infrastructure conversation," Price told KERA. "We really haven't had this kind of focus from an administration since way back when Eisenhower brought on the interstate projects."
Price was comparing Trump's infrastructure plan to Dwight D. Eisenhower's launching of the interstate highway system.
Under the new infrastructure plan, the federal government would chip in $200 billion, leaving cities and states to pick up the vast majority of the tab: $1.3 trillion.
“If you spread that around across the nation, it’s not that much,” Price said. “You ought to remember historically, cities and states fund about 70 percent to 76 percent of infrastructure anyway with a 20-to-25 percent match from the Feds.”
Price says the infrastructure plan is a “start.”
“We’ve seen prior administrations focus on infrastructure, but we haven’t had the steady growth that this country has had — particularly our region, the Fort Worth-Dallas region, has seen incredible growth,” she said. “We need somebody to say ‘We’re going to give you the flexibility. We’re going to try to cut through the red tape.’"
Price says she’s “thrilled” about the prospect of speeding up the environmental review process for various projects.
“When it takes 10 years to clear a road project or a water project, the cost of that project has now gone over the top. So our precious dollars are being spent needlessly,” the mayor said.
Protecting the environment is possible while also building roads and other projects, she said. “You can do them both together."
A defense of toll roads
One of the public-private efforts that the Trump plan encourages is toll roads and toll lanes on existing highways. That's a stark contrast to moves lately by the Texas state government. Last fall, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick -- both, like Price and Trump, Republicans -- told state highway officials to abandon plans to use tolls to help fund roads like a proposed extension of I-635E in North Texas.
In her conversation with KERA. Price talked glowingly about how toll lanes helped fund a redo of I-35W in Fort Worth.
"In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to do that," she said. "But we don't have a perfect world."
Price was noticeably absent from Trump campaign events in North Texas two years ago when he ran for president.
Now, the commander-in-chief is calling her his "fantastic friend."
Is the feeling mutual?
“Ah, there's a lotta hyperbole there, I think,” she said.