Nobody knows how President-elect Trump’s infrastructure improvement plan will be implemented and paid for, but his pick for transportation secretary dropped a big hint in new documents released by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Elaine Chao, in a questionnaire completed as part of her application for Secretary of Transportation, cites her second priority among three described as overseeing infrastructure improvement, in particular streamlining the process of planning and approving projects.

“… Given the nation’s need to improve critical infrastructure, it is important to find ways to expedite the process of making repairs and building new constructions and decreasing the regulatory burdens when appropriate,” states Chao. “With or without a new infusion of funds, it is necessary to look at the existing processes for infrastructure development and find more efficient ways to address bottlenecks in planning and permitting.”

The wording of “with or without a new infusion of funds” supports previous reports that Trump’s supposed $1 trillion investment plan would include tax breaks and other mechanisms to spur projects, instead of government spending.

Chao also notes that another major challenge in infrastructure planning would be ensuring that areas across the country will receive support, regardless of the type of community.

“… With so many needs everywhere in the country, a big challenge will be to strive for equity between urban and rural areas, among different modes of transportation, and other competing but equally deserving stakeholders,” Chao concludes.

This would also be difficult if direct government spending isn’t facilitating projects in areas of need that wouldn’t usually be financially remunerative for developers and construction companies.

A few conflicts of interest are also found in the documents Chao supplied. She is “entitled to discounted air fare on Delta Air Lines as a result of her service on the board of Northwest Airlines,” and will receive a payout from News Corp., the company that owns Republican-leaning Fox News, upon leaving its board to become Secretary of Transportation.

You can read the full questionnaire, which is replete with career and financial information, below.

Download (PDF, 393KB)

Photo Credit: Infrastructure improvement is going to be one of the key transportation priorities for the Trump Administration. Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao, right, is pictured here at a 2003 event with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Helene C. Stikkel / United States Department of Defense