Cantwell Applauds New Committee to Improve Freight Strategy, Economic Growth

USDOT’s new effort is next step in federal freight strategy Cantwell called for

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the creation of a new National Freight Advisory Committee at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the next step in implementing a national freight strategy based on the successful collaborative Washington state model.

The new USDOT committee – made up of diverse stakeholders from outside the federal government – will provide recommendations on how the freight network can better serve businesses, freight customers and shippers, and regions across the nation.

Today’s announcement builds on the progress that began in Seattle on August 23, 2012, when Cantwell and USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced the creation of a new federal Freight Policy Council to bring together senior leadership representing highways, rail, maritime, and airports, and economic and policy experts from across USDOT. 

“I want to thank Secretary LaHood for taking this key next step to support economic growth and to improve the nation’s freight system,” said Cantwell. “We’ve seen in Washington state how a diverse array of voices are critical to building a freight system that supports jobs. Freight will continue to be critical to our economy and this committee will help create a freight strategy that supports economic growth and job creation.”

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 our national freight network. Over the past several years, she has sponsored legislation in the U.S. Senate and pushed USDOT to improve federal freight policy and coordination across modes and bring in the outside perspective of freight experts from industry, states, and national organizations.     

The efficient movement of freight and goods is especially important to Washington state, which exported more per capita last year than any other state in the nation. In 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight was moved in Washington – a number expected to grow by up to 86 percent by 2040.  But congestion threatens this growth – and the jobs and economic opportunities that come with it.  Freight congestion and other bottlenecks already cost the nation approximately $200 billion per year.

At least 25 people from outside USDOT will serve on the new committee, which will provide guidance to the Secretary of Transportation and the USDOT multimodal Freight Policy Council on implementing freight provisions of the recent surface transportation reauthorization, developing the National Freight Strategic Plan and creating performance measures for the freight network.  Members will include representatives from across the country who can provide input from the private-sector, industry associations, state and local governments, and others with a stake in the success of the nation’s freight network. Cantwell called for the formation of this collaborative advisory committee in a May 31, 2012, letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray 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 the 112th Congress, Cantwell was a lead sponsor – along with Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) – of the FREIGHT  Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation) Act, which was introduced in February 2011.

Just over one year ago, in January 2012, Cantwell visited three ports in Washington state – the Port of Seattle, Port of Pasco and the Port of Vancouver – to highlight local freight mobility improvement projects that would create jobs and make the movement of goods more efficient in and around the ports.

Learn more about the new National Freight Advisory Committee and how to nominate members at: http://www.freight.dot.gov/freight_nfac.cfm.