Cantwell Joins Transportation Secretary Foxx to Release First Ever National Freight Strategic Plan

Calls for Greater Focus on Future of Freight Movement in the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today in Seattle, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to release the Department of Transportation’s first-of-its-kind National Freight Strategic Plan. The plan – now open for public comment – includes next steps in improving the condition and performance of the national freight network and increasing America’s global economic competitiveness as well as aims to reduce the impact of freight movement to communities.

The efficient movement of freight across the nation is essential to limiting congestion, boosting America’s global competitiveness, and supporting our rapidly growing economy. Senator Cantwell has fought for a comprehensive strategic approach to improving the efficiency of freight networks and investing in transportation infrastructure. In August 2012, Cantwell and former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the launch of a new National Freight Advisory Committee which provided recommendations used in development of the National Freight Strategic Plan.

“Congestion on rails, surface streets, and at our ports across the Pacific Northwest costs businesses billions of dollars a year and gives an edge to competitors around the globe. The National Freight Strategic Plan means corridors like 1-5 and places like Seattle and Tacoma will be part of our national strategy to quickly move products through traffic congested areas,” said Senator Cantwell.

“With an increasingly competitive and complex global marketplace and a deteriorating transportation infrastructure that is unfortunately showing the effects of age and underinvestment, the need for us to have a national freight plan could not be more urgent,” said Secretary Foxx.

Senator Cantwell has been a leading advocate for a national multimodal freight policy. In 2010, Cantwell introduced the FREIGHT Act which would have established the Office of Freight Planning and Development within the Department of Transportation to improve efficiency of all the component parts that make up the nation’s freight infrastructure. Additionally, the FREIGHT Act would have authorized a new competitive grant program for freight-specific infrastructure improvements, such as port infrastructure modernization, freight rail capacity expansion, and highway projects that improve access to freight facilities. Additionally, Cantwell worked with former Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to establish the National Freight Advisory Committee in 2012.

Cantwell led the Senate in passing multiple freight and rail safety provisions as part of the DRIVE Act. For the first time, the bill contains a separate Freight Division focused on goods movement, which is largely based on Cantwell’s National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act (S.1680). The freight division includes America’s first-ever national multimodal freight policy, new strategic freight planning, and a program to specifically invest in multimodal freight and port projects. The DRIVE Act awaits passage by the U.S. House.

Background on the National Freight Strategic Plan

The National Freight Strategic Plan provides a comprehensive approach to freight planning and investment, which is key to staying competitive in the global economy.  Specifically, the plan includes strategies to address infrastructure bottlenecks that limit goods from moving quickly across the freight network including ways to reduce congestion, improve safety of the transportation system, and facilitate connectivity through the designation of a Multimodal Freight Network. The Multimodal Freight Network includes a first-ever designation of the I-5 and I-90 corridors, critical freight rail lines throughout Washington state, and several Northwest ports.

The plan also includes strategies to combat financial and institutional bottlenecks, which includes recommending Congress establish dedicated freight funding as Cantwell’s National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act seeks to do. Other features include improved public private partnerships, better data, and investments in the next generation freight transportation workforce.

See the full plan here.