NEW YORK President Obama
has signed an executive order aimed at speeding up major
infrastructure projects by modernizing permitting practices and
regulations, a move some say could benefit suppliers of steel
and other structural components by getting backlogged
construction projects off the ground sooner.
According to the White House,
the order is intended to "modernize the federal
governments review and permitting of infrastructure
projects and reduce aggregate timelines for major
infrastructure projects by half."
Specific projects mentioned in
the order include roadways, railroads, aviation, ports,
renewable energy generation, pipelines, bridges and canals.
Federal infrastructure projects
often take many years, with each project subject to reviews by
multiple agencies. According to the Associated General
Contractors of America, it currently takes an average of 13
years to take a highway construction project from concept to
completion, with much of that time dedicated to the permitting
"Assuming that the executive
order translates to actual changes in policy ... it could shave
months, if not years, off the process," a spokesman for the
Associated General Contractors of America told
Project delays are often caused
by the sequence of reviews, the spokesman said, noting that
only one federal agency examines a project at a time before
passing it to the next. If one agency disapproves of the
project, it sends the plan back to the first reviewing agency
and the review process begins all over again, he said. The new
executive order calls for concurrent project reviews, allowing
multiple agencies to review a project at the same time.
The order is also intended to
expand coordination with state and local governments, revise
key regulations and expand the use of information technology
tools, among other directives.
"(The order will) expedite major
infrastructure projects and place the U.S. on a fast track to
economic recovery," Marcia Hale, president of Building
Americas Future Educational Fund, said in a statement.
"Cutting the red tape that delays infrastructure projects will
enable our nation to invest in 21st-century energy,
transportation, water and other systems."
The Associated General
Contractors of America spokesman said an expedited permitting
process is likely to increase demand for steel.
"If it works the way it should,
the executive order should help accelerate a host of projects
that should benefit a range of suppliers, including steel
suppliers," he said.
"The big questions is: Is this a nice piece of show or is
this going to lead to substantive changes?" he said. "You need
the leadership from the top of all the agencies involved to say
that (the president) has mandated this; we need to sit down
with our counterparts and go over this application and make a
decision. (And) we need to do it quickly."