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State Dining Room

3:36 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you all very much for being here.  This is fantastic.  In fact, what we’ll do — in a minute, we’ll go around the room real quickly.  I see some extra people showed up so that, frankly, we don’t have too much room, Rick.  It’s a little tight in here.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT:  They should all be in Florida.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a little tight, but that’s okay.  Great honor.  and it’s my pleasure to welcome so many incredible governors, tribal leaders, mayors, county commissioners, and other leaders of our country to the White House Infrastructure Summit.  We’re doing a great job with respect to infrastructure all over, and we’re very proud of it.  It’s going to take off like a rocket ship — moving very quickly.  Together, we’re going to rebuild America.

Earlier this week, we announced our plan to revolutionize air traffic control.  And yesterday, I traveled to Cincinnati to discuss our new vision for American infrastructure and our plans to modernize our vital inland waterways, which are so important and which are, in many cases, crumbling.

Today, we’re here to talk about how we will create the infrastructure of the future by partnering with the states and local governments — of which you form a very important part, right?  This is the group.  And it’s a great group.

You are the stewards of the vast majority of our nation’s roads and bridges and airports.  Yet, for too long, Washington has slowed down your projects and driven up your costs, and driven them up beyond anything even recognizable.  Those days are over.  We are going to move quickly, we’re going to move very, very intelligently, and we’re going to get the job done, under budget and ahead of schedule — something the government doesn’t hear too much.

We are already taking action to dramatically reduce the time it takes to get permits and approvals.  If you want to build a highway in the United States, you currently have to obtain approvals, generally speaking, on average, 16.  And usually, 10 federal agencies are involved.  It’s a process that can take well over 10 years just to get the approvals.  We’re not talking about building, we’re talking about just getting the approvals.  So we want to streamline that process, and we think we can get it down to a number that’s closer to two years, and maybe even less than that.  That would be a big, big difference.

In addition to reforming our broken permitting system, we want to partner with state and local governments to better meet the needs of our citizens.  My budget proposal includes a massive investment in new federal support for infrastructure.  These dollars will be matched by significant private, state, and local dollars for maximum efficiency and accountability.

Already, many of you are pioneering innovative solutions for your citizens and you’re already looking at developments and working with us.  To take just one example, in Florida, Governor Rick Scott — hello, Rick — has partnered with private sector investors — and he’s really been partnering a lot — to build projects such as the I-4 Ultimate Project, which has been called “the largest infrastructure project in state history.”  That’s Florida — big state.  It’s going to be a great project.

Because of their innovation approach and because of the way they went about getting it and getting the approvals, the project is anticipated to be completed 17 years earlier than it would have through more traditional funding methods.

These are the kind of projects we want to see all across the country.  Working together, I’m confident that we can translate every taxpayer dollar into new pavement on our streets, new locks and new dams, new pipes for our water — and I will tell you we’re just going to have a much better, more modern, more acceptable infrastructure.  We want to bring it to the top of the world.

We’ve gone way down in the list.  If you look worldwide, we have gone way, way down.  We want to go back to the top.  We used to be at the top every year, routinely.  And now we’ve gone down quite a bit.  So I don’t like that, you don’t like that, and we’re going to change it.

I just want to again say it’s an honor to have you here.  You’re really the stewards of the great cities and the great states and the great areas and communities, and you’re going to be very important to what we’re going with infrastructure.

So I think what I’ll do is start with Rick Scott of Florida, and maybe just around.  You give the name, location.  You have a couple of people from the press.  Not too many.  Let’s see.  Not too many.  (Laughter.)  And I’m sure they’re going to be excited to hear who you are.  They’re desperate to hear who you are.  (Laughter.)

3:42 P.M. EDT