ATLANTA - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao believes the UPS Hapeville Airport Hub is the perfect backdrop for President Donald Trump to announce a policy change to expedite infrastructure projects by amending the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Secretary Chao told FOX 5's Portia Bruner the environmental law is outdated and long overdue for an upgrade.
"Just the permitting alone can take up to seven years, so the President is announcing a new rule that will set time limits to construction permitting processes, improve the coordination between various governmental agencies, reduce the paperwork and allow more public comment," Secretary Chao told Bruner during a Skype interview Tuesday morning.
Enacted in 1970, NEPA was designed to ensure agencies consider the environmental impact of road, bridges, highway and airport construction and other projects. Secretary Chao said the policy change will directly benefit Georgia's infrastructure.
"These changes are going to expedite the environmental reviews for the I-75 commercial vehicle lane project in Atlanta, Georgia, so it's very good news," said Chao, who served as the Labor Secretary under President George W. Bush.
Chao said she and the President will also focus on how $338 million in federal funds helped the world's busiest airport thrive, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They're using that to make payroll because the President feels very strongly about that. We must not have these people lose their jobs. We want to protect their jobs," said Chao. "We just hope that reopening the economy will bring back more travelers to airports and to transit as well. We need to do that and we need to do so safely," she said from Washington.
When asked about her thoughts on the rising cases of coronavirus across the country, the Transportation Secretary told Bruner she doesn't believe the outbreak is a nationwide problem.
"I think it's very important to remember COVID-19 is not a blanket nationwide occurrence. It is occurring in hotspots, so we have to focus and pay attention to the hotspots. That's not to say that people around the country should not engage in safe behavior, which is social distancing and wearing face coverings when near other people and of course, washing hands very frequently," said Chao, who will accompany President Trump to Atlanta Wednesday afternoon.
Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.