Image by Gage Skidmore licensed under Creative Commons.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump lamented the long, drawn-out process for getting highways built. That's really rich coming from the guy who wants to kill all of the transit projects that have been working their way through the federal process but which haven't yet crossed the finish line, including the Purple Line.

While Trump spoke, a staffer held up a seven foot tall flowchart showing the different reviews and permits federal law requires. Trump then noted that even after all that process, and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, these projects can still get canceled. According to the president (and we didn't fact-check this), 17 different agencies and 29 different federal laws apply. And all this, he says, is just the federal process. There are state rules, too.


The funny thing is that despite Trump's overly large flowchart, and however long the process is, we still build plenty of highways in the United States. GGWash founder David Alpert showed that in a flowchart of his own a few years ago:

And there are reasons for such long processes. While there's certainly a risk of community groups digging their heels in and opposing a project outright, there are other cases where changes can make a project more socially equitable or time can allow for just opposition. These kinds of checks and balances aren't bugs; they're features.

It's unfortunate that the president wants to focus on making it even easier to build roads while at the same time killing transit projects.

Jonathan Neeley was Greater Greater Washington's staff editor from 2014-2017. He gets most everywhere by bike (or Metro when it's super nasty out), thinks the way planning decisions shape our lives is fascinating, and plays a whole lot of ultimate. He lives in Brookland.