Cantwell Continues Push for Port Improvements, Maritime Strategy for First-Ever Multimodal Freight Grant Program

Administration to prioritize 15 small ports for improvement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) continued her push for funding for small ports throughout Washington state in a Senate Subcommittee hearing addressing issues on the maritime industry.

“We must ensure that our port infrastructure continues to see improvement,” said Cantwell. “Our economic strategy in Washington is ‘ports are us’. That’s how many ports we have and that’s how critical they are.”

Cantwell pressed U.S. Maritime Administration Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen for the United States’ plans for investing in small ports through the Department of Transportation’s new FASTLANE grants, and the role of these grants in the Maritime Administration’s National Maritime Strategy.

Jaenichen recognized the importance of small ports, stating that the administration has proposed investments in America’s small ports as part of its FY 2017 budget.

The FASTLANE grants – also known as the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Grant Program – were authored by Cantwell as part of the long-term transportation bill, or Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). The grant program authorizes $800 million in FY 2016 and $4.5 billion through 2020.

The FASTLANE GRANT is the first-ever multimodal freight grant program focused on freight mobility. FASTLANE grants will provide funding for projects of national or regional significance including railway, seaport, and highway projects, such as highway-rail separations, to increase safety and reduce congestion.

Cantwell has been a tireless supporter of freight mobility improvement legislation in the Senate. In a May 2012 letter, Cantwell urged then-Secretary LaHood to launch a comprehensive freight initiative to improve federal freight policy and to focus attention on projects that have the maximum benefit to the nation’s freight network, economy and taxpayers. Cantwell later announced with LaHood the Freight Policy Council, which developed the National Freight Strategic Plan and focused on improving the condition and performance of the national freight network to better ensure the ability of the United States to compete in today’s global economy.

Multimodal freight is critical to Washington state. Forty-four percent of Washington state jobs are dependent on freight.  For every billion dollars of freight investment, it is estimated that 20,000 jobs are created.  The American Society of Civil Engineers has said that a failure to adequately invest in our infrastructure could cost the country more than 875,000 jobs.

Without targeted investment in our multimodal freight infrastructure, the United States could lose out to its Canadian competitors. Canada has dedicated $1.4 billion to upgrading its national freight network, specifically focused on the Pacific trade gateways.