At Port of Vancouver, Cantwell Urges Passage of Freight Measures to Support WA Port Job Growth

Cantwell calls for Senate action to make freight jobs national priority

VANCOUVER, WA. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) visited a local business at the Port of Vancouver, to call for passage of a Senate bill that would invest in Washington’s freight network and support job growth. This is Cantwell’s second stop on a Washington Ports Jobs tour. Cantwell was at the Port of Pasco on Monday, and she will be at the Port of Seattle tomorrow.

Speaking from United Grain Corporation – which is currently undergoing an expansion that will enable it to increase exports by 50 percent and grow jobs – Cantwell called for Senate action on provisions of her freight legislation to support port job growth and keep Washington state’s ports competitive. Cantwell sent a letter Monday to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), urging him to bring up and encourage passage of the FREIGHT Act provisions before March 31, 2012, when the current surface transportation reauthorization expires.

Cantwell is pushing for Senate passage of job provisions from the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation (FREIGHT) Act, which she introduced last year with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). In Vancouver, these FREIGHT measures could pave the way for investment in job-creating projects like the West Vancouver Freight Access Project.

We need to act now to support job growth at the Port of Vancouver,” Cantwell said. “Freight transportation is the foundation of Washington state’s robust trade economy and supports tens of thousands of jobs, including 17,000 jobs supported by the Port of Vancouver. But freight bottlenecks and deteriorating infrastructure plus increasing competition threatens future growth. I am urging Congress to take up my FREIGHT provisions so Washington state ports have the support they need to modernize.”

With completion anticipated in 2017, the West Vancouver Freight Access Project is expected to create more than 1,000 new, permanent jobs. In addition, building the project, which began in 2007, will generate an anticipated 4,000 construction jobs. The project’s benefits are numerous and include: reducing current delays in rail traffic by as much as 40 percent, more than tripling rail capacity from 50,000 to 160,000 cars annually, lowering shipping costs, and making businesses more competitive in global markets.

The West Vancouver Freight Access Project is also helping spur $400 million of private investments by businesses utilizing the freight network. This includes investments by companies like United Grain Corporation to take advantage of the improved freight transportation infrastructure and grow their operations. United Grain Corporation is adding more grain storage silos, which will enable it to increase its exports by 50 percent, and, according to the port’s economic projections, an expansion of this size could create roughly 30 new longshoremen and rail jobs at the port.

The FREIGHT Act provisions would help Washington state grow its robust trade economy by making investments to modernize and improve the efficiency of Washington’s intermodal freight network, which includes ports, freight railways, air cargo infrastructure, and highways. If nothing is done, the impacts from increasing competition and a deteriorating freight network could be dire. For example, more than 27,000 jobs and $3.3 billion in economic output could be lost in Washington state if truck congestion within the state increased by just 20 percent, according to a soon-to-be-released study by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Washingtonstate is one of the nation’s top exporting states. In 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight were moved in Washington – a number expected to grow by up to 86 percent by 2040.According to a 2008 U.S. Department of Transportation report, several Washington state cities already rank in the nation’s top 125 freight gateways handling international merchandise by air, land and water, including Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Blaine, Kalama, Anacortes and Sumas. Every hour, $27 million of freight moves on Washington roadways.

Ports like the Port of Vancouver play an integral role in this network and support numerous jobs. More than 2,300 people are directly employed by businesses at the port, and port activities support nearly 17,000 jobs in the community. Port of Vancouver activities generate $1.6 billion in economic benefits to the Southwest Washington region, and port business activities contributed $80.8 million in state and local taxes in 2010.

Cantwell has long championed the role ports play in fueling job and economic growth in Washington state. In December, she helped secure committee approval of key provisions of the FREIGHT Act. Cantwell introduced the FREIGHT Act last year to establish America’s first comprehensive national freight transportation policy and support ports.

In August 2010, Cantwell met with Washington state port and transportation officials to discuss the importance of investing in a multimodal freight network to ensure the capacity exists to move goods and products more efficiently. In April 2010, Cantwell called for the development of a national freight mobility plan to back President Obama’s goal to double exports in the next five years.

In a letter to President Obama sent on April 29, 2010, Cantwell proposed adding the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the roster of officials included in the President’s Export Cabinet, because of the critical role of transportation infrastructure in moving exports. In response to Cantwell’s letter, President Obama added the DOT Secretary to the Export Cabinet. And at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on April 29, 2010 – “Doubling U.S. Exports: Are U.S. Sea Ports Ready for the Challenge?” – Cantwell called for infrastructure improvements throughout the transportation supply chain, including road, rail and sea transportation, and for the removal of bottlenecks to rapidly increase exports.