ATLANTA — President Donald Trump visited Atlanta Wednesday to talk about ways to streamline big infrastructure projects.
Air Force One touched down around 3:20 p.m. This was Trump’s 9th visit to Georgia since taking office.
Several Georgia lawmakers were on the ground waiting for Trump including Gov. Brian Kemp and Senate rivals Doug Collins and Kelly Loeffler.
The spoke at the UPS airport hub in Hapeville on the grounds of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Trump announced that he’s making changes in the environmental review process that they believe will cut the permitting time for big infrastructure projects from seven to two years.
“Together we’re reclaiming America’s proud heritage as a nation of builders and a nation that can get things done. Because with these horrible roadblocks that were put in front of us, you couldn’t get it done,” Trump said. “No matter how good you were, you couldn’t get it done. You’d wait and wait. You’d go to the next step, you’d say you can’t start the next step until you finish the first.”
Trump said the move would benefit the expansion of I-75 south of Atlanta that would allow 77 new miles for commercial vehicles, “saving drivers countless, hundreds of hours a year.”
Channel 2′s Richard Elliot spoke exclusively to Trump during his visit. Watch his full interview below:
Vice President and presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released a statement about Trump’s visit, slamming his coronavirus response.
“Georgia families are suffering. They’re suffering because of Donald Trump’s complete and utter failure to lead this country and combat the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Georgians and positive COVID-19 cases continue to climb. More than 2.7 million unemployment claims have been filed since mid-March. Unemployment is worse than it was during the Great Recession. This administration’s mismanagement has left working families and small business owners out in the cold as they endure the worst economic losses the country has faced in modern memory. Americans need a concrete, effective reopening plan that’s rooted in science and public health. They need a President who has a vision and can lead us out of this cataclysmic mess with an inclusive economy that will help create jobs and get our economy back on track.”
Stacy Abrams also issued a Democratic response to Trump’s visit, slamming the administration for lost jobs and the toll of the pandemic on the African-American community.
“The coronavirus has disproportionately impacted the African-American community from contraction to death, and we’re not alone,” Abrams said. “Latino populations in north and south Georgia are seeing disproportionate rates of infection due to his cold-hearted determination to send people back to work before they had the resources they needed.”
Abrams endorsed Biden.
“Joe Biden has shown the confidence and competence and courage, in stark contrast to Trump’s incompetence, bumbling response and moral cowardice,” Abrams said.
Elliot also exclusively with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who said the change will also help coordinate between government agencies, reduce paperwork and increase public participation.
These new policy changes will actually expedite the environmental review of the I-75 commercial vehicle lane project right in Atlanta,” she said.
Georgia wants to open up commercial vehicle lanes all the way from Macon to McDonough. It’s a way, they say, to help move freight across the state without clogging traffic.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024, but now, GDOT is involved with the environmental review, which could take time. This new policy would change that, but not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.
Elliot spoke with Brian Gist of the Southern Environmental Law Center about the National Environmental Policy Act.
He says those regulations are necessary to keep the government honest about big infrastructure projects and thinks changing them will only hurt the environment and keep the public in the dark.
“I think the public is going to know less about what their government is doing and you’re going to have less of a voice in those decisions,” he said.
The top agent for the U.S. Secret Service talked to Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne about how they are keeping the president safe during the pandemic.
Special Agent in Charge Steven Baisel has protected presidents and vice presidents for years. He said the responsibility was on his shoulders to keep the president safe at Atlanta’s airport.
“The COVID pandemic is obviously a major concern for us,” Baisel said. “We work closely with the White House medical unit. They’ve been out here and they’re responsible for helping us make sure that every area the President goes through is clean and sanitized to minimize any risk”
Baisel said that it’s a great feeling when a Presidential visit goes as planned.
“It’s always a moment of joy,” Baisel said. “It’s amazing all the work that goes into a visit and to see the security plan executed is a great enjoyment.”
Baisel said the security plan goes beyond the airport and that Secret Service Agents work with local law enforcement, like the Georgia State Patrol, to keep the president safe.
“We always have a contingency plan,”Baisel said. “Even though the President is staying on the airport grounds, in case something happens and we have to evacuate him off the grounds, they’re there to help. We’ve got excellent support from both the state and local police departments.”
Baisel said no planes were allowed to take off or land as Air Force One touched down, but that the visit didn’t impact the commercial side of the airport.
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