Cantwell Applauds Milestone in Freight Improvement Effort

Head of freight board among 47 new appointees to National Freight Advisory Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded a milestone in the effort to improve the nation’s freight system: the announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of 47 new appointees to the National Freight Advisory Committee. Among the new appointees is Karen Schmidt, executive director of the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board.

The committee members will provide recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on how the freight network can better serve businesses, freight customers and shippers, and regions across the nation. Members are from outside of the federal government and will serve two-year terms and the Committee is expected to meet at least three times per year.

Earlier this year, as a continuation of his pledge to work on freight mobility with Cantwell, Secretary LaHood announced the creation of the National Freight Advisory Committee.

"In Washington state, we know that jobs and the movement of freight go hand in hand. More than one million jobs in Washington depend on freight,” said Cantwell. "I am especially encouraged by Karen Schmidt’s appointment to the National Freight Advisory Committee. This is a significant milestone in our effort to improve the nation’s freight network. Karen’s work with Washington state’s freight board has helped make our state a model for collaborative freight investment and improvement.”

The efficient movement of freight and goods is vital to Washington state, which exported more per capita last year than any other state in the nation. Freight congestion and other bottlenecks already cost the nation approximately $200 billion per year. Today, every American is responsible for 40 tons of freight a year. A more efficient freight network will reduce traffic congestion, environmental impact and shipping costs, which will lead to lower prices for consumers.

Cantwell has been a leading advocate for a national multimodal freight strategy that can guide future investment by identifying critical trade corridors, bottlenecks, and strengths and weaknesses in the nation’s freight network. Cantwell called for the formation of the Committee in a May 2012 letter to LaHood.

In her letter, Cantwell encouraged USDOT to consider the collaborative approach of the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board as an example of successful freight coordination, prioritization and collaboration among many modes and diverse interests. Since the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board was created in 1998, it has brought public and private interests to the table together to invest $112.7 million in partnership with other stakeholders to help complete 41 projects valued at more than $371 million.

In 2012, she worked with USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood to create a new federal Freight Policy Council tasked with improving the condition and performance of the national freight network to strengthen the United States’ ability to compete in a global economy. Cantwell and LaHood announced the initiative on August 23, 2012, at the Port of Seattle and the North Spokane Corridor in Washington state. The Freight Policy Council is expected to work closely with the new advisory committee on improving our nation’s freight network.