Washington state’s airports, roads, ports, ferries and railroads support thousands of Washington businesses and create countless jobs across the state. Maria has worked to ensure that Washington has a modern, efficient and reliable transportation network that supports future economic growth. Maria has fought to boost freight mobility and to provide Washington exporters, producers and manufacturers with an efficient freight network to move their goods. Maria has also worked to modernize the national commercial aviation system, and she has spearheaded efforts to improve aerospace workforce training and ensure that Washington remains a 21st century hub for the commercial aviation industry.

In Washington state, more freight means more jobs. Thousands of jobs—from workers in warehouses, rail yards and ports – depend on freight to move goods to markets across the nation and world. In 2011, more than $64.6 billion in goods were exported from Washington.  

Every hour of every day, $27 million of freight moves on Washington roadways, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. Maintaining the transportation network and increasing freight mobility is vital to support the thriving export economy in Washington state.

Maria is leading efforts to pass the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation (FREIGHT) Act, which would increase the efficient movement of freight across the state and ensure that the Department of Transportation makes freight transportation infrastructure a priority.  In March 2012, the Senate passed key provisions from the FREIGHT Act, and Maria remains committed to passing remaining FREIGHT provisions into law.

For Washington state, freight mobility in the 21st century means moving beyond highways.  Maria’s FREIGHT Act would also improve railroads, barges, container ships and other multimodal facilities, long-haul railroad, tractor truck, barges, bulk and freight oceangoing vessels, and short-line railroad. Maria’s legislation requires the creation of a new national transportation freight strategic plan to improve the efficiency of freight transportation across the entire network – not just highways. Passing the FREIGHT Act into law would move goods faster and more efficiently—creating and preserving jobs in Washington ports, transportation sectors, and manufacturing businesses.

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As Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation, Maria has championed efforts to modernize the air transportation system and worked to implement innovative technologies that ensure commercial aviation can meet growing passenger demand and support national commerce in future years. Maria played a key role in passing legislation in 2012 that will create a 21st century air transportation system. Over the next 15 years, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) convert air traffic control from 1950s radar to satellite-based GPS system.

The use of GPS technology will shorten air routes -- saving time and fuel. It will permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins while concurrently increasing the capacity of both the airspace and at airports. Overall, air transportation system modernization will reduce gridlock in the skies as well as delays at airports.

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In 2003, Maria pushed to create a national center to research how to best use advanced composite materials in passenger and general aviation aircraft. These advanced materials are strong but light, so composite aircrafts are more fuel efficient. Maria championed legislation, which passed into law in the “Vision 100 – Century of Aviation (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2003,” to create the Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials in Transport Aircraft Structures (AMTAS). Maria played a key role in supporting the University of Washington’s efforts to lead the center.

AMTAS supports the aerospace industry’s research in the use of advanced aviation materials, such as composites and aluminum alloys, for use in civilian transport aircraft. Innovative research conducted by AMTAS students and scientists helped address safety and certification issues for building aircraft with composite materials. These findings allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to quickly certify the new 787 Dreamliner.

Read more about the Center of Excellence for Advanced Material for Transport Aviation Structures.

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Washington is home to more than 650 aerospace companies, which employ more than 90,000 workers representing 17 percent of all U.S. aerospace workers. It is estimated that Washington state employers will need 21,000 new aerospace workers over the next decade due to a “perfect storm” of increased demand, impending retirements and new technology.

Maria has long worked to ensure that the Pacific Northwest remains an epicenter of the commercial aviation industry and that Washingtonians have the skills needed to fill jobs in Washington’s thriving aviation economy. In October 2011, Maria chaired a Subcommittee on Aviation field hearing in Seattle and held roundtables around the state in 2011 to tackle the current and future job skills gap. Maria convened labor, educational, industry and government leaders, and challenged them to think outside of the box in developing strategies to put more Washingtonians to work in aerospace.

In May 2011, Maria joined with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in urging Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to support a grant to boost aerospace training efforts in Washington state. The grant, announced in October 2011, will provide 14 Washington state community and technical colleges the resources needed to train 2,600 workers for aerospace jobs and expand the capacity of Washington community colleges to train the future aerospace workforce.

Early in her Senate career, Maria played a key role in establishing a material science technology program at Edmonds Community College to help train the next generation of aviation workers in Washington state.

The workforce training capacity developed at Edmonds Community College helped pave the way for the creation of the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center, which opened in 2010 at Paine Field in Everett. The Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center offers numerous certificate programs that provide training to get new workers prepared for aerospace jobs quickly and efficiently. Maria has worked to ensure that the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center has the equipment needed to train Washington workers.

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Maria was instrumental throughout the fight to ensure a fair competition to build a new generation of tankers for the Air Force. Unwilling to let illegal foreign subsidies defeat American jobs, Maria took the fight to two Presidents, the Pentagon, and key Senate leaders from both parties, demanding transparency and fairness.

After the Air Force’s initial 2008 decision to award the contract to Airbus, Maria demanded that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the national security impact, domestic job impact, and fuel efficiency of choosing a foreign company to build American defense products. In June of 2008 the GAO released its review from the inquiry, concluding that Boeing was right to protest the Air Force decision.  The Air Force reopened the tanker competition in July 2008.

When the Air Force selected Boeing as the “clear winner” in February 2011, it was a resounding victory for Washington’s aerospace supply chain. Boeing’s victory will support 11,000 jobs in Washington state.

The Boeing win is expected to bring in $693 million in annual economic activity for the region and will advance Washington’s leading role in defense innovation. Bringing home the tanker will support jobs at 68 Boeing suppliers in Washington, 65 percent of which are small businesses.

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