Cantwell Secures Commitments from USDOT Nominee Foxx to Continue Freight Initiative, Ferry Funding
At nomination hearing, Cantwell also discusses importance of aviation safety and airline ticket pricing transparency
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) secured a commitment from Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, the nominee to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to continue efforts to implement a national multimodal freight strategy to strengthen global competitiveness and support economic growth across the country.
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. Freight congestion and other bottlenecks already cost the nation approximately $200 billion per year.
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. 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.
Earlier this year, as a continuation of his pledge to work on freight mobility with Cantwell, Secretary LaHood announced the creation of a new National Freight Advisory Committee. The Committee, which is still being formed, will be comprised of diverse stakeholders from outside the federal government who will provide recommendations on how the freight network can better serve businesses, freight customers and shippers, and regions across the nation.
“I’m very excited that the United States Department of Transportation is working right now on the first national multimodal freight strategic plan,” Cantwell said today. “You and I had a chance to talk about this. But I want to hear your thoughts or public commitment to whether you’ll continue the work that Secretary LaHood started in implementing a national freight policy?”
“Senator, I’m very excited about this initiative and I want to thank you for your leadership on it. Freight is a critical player in our economy,” Foxx responded. “As the process moves forward I look forward to working with the council to help implement the ideas that come out of it.”
President Obama nominated Foxx on April 29, 2013, to replace Secretary LaHood, who is resigning.
Click here to watch a video of Cantwell’s exchange with Foxx today.
During today’s Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing, Cantwell also asked Foxx about prioritizing funding for ferries as part of the nation’s highway system, finalizing implementation of several new aviation safety regulations, and providing transparency for consumers in airline ticket pricing:
- Ferries: Cantwell told Foxx that Washington state’s ferries carry approximately double the number of people annually compared to the Amtrak Northeast Corridor (22 million vs. 11.4 million), but “oftentimes the funding falls between the cracks.” She asked Foxx to commit to ensuring that ferries receive the support they deserve as essential links in the national transportation system. Foxx said that he would “absolutely work to advocate for critical transportation systems” like Washington state’s ferry system.
- Aviation Safety: Cantwell also secured a commitment from Foxx to work to meet the August 1, 2013, deadline for the implementation of a pilot qualification rule. The pilot qualification rule was included in a major piece of aviation safety legislation enacted into law in the aftermath of the February 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo, New York. At a hearing last month, Cantwell pressed Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta about the potential impact of sequestration on the implementation of these critical aviation safety rules.
- Transparency in Airline Ticket Pricing: Cantwell also asked Foxx about his thoughts on the importance of giving consumers better airline ticket pricing information so they can make more informed purchasing decisions. Foxx said that as a consumer that had to “purchase airline tickets to get here,” he certainly understands and would support efforts to provide better pricing transparency.
A complete transcript of Cantwell’s exchange with Mayor Foxx today is included below. Video is available here.
Senator Cantwell: Thank you Mr. Chairman. And welcome Mayor Foxx, I see your family and congratulations on your nomination. I’m very excited that the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) is working right now on the first national multimodal freight strategic plan. You and I had a chance to talk about this. But I want to hear your thoughts or public commitment to whether you’ll continue the work that Secretary LaHood started in implementing a national freight policy?
Mayor Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation Nominee: Senator, I’m very excited about this initiative and I want to thank you for your leadership on it. Freight is a critical player in our economy. And can be an even greater force in our ability to reach out into global markets and to move goods quickly within our borders. I am aware that there is activity associated with populating the national freight council. And that the national freight strategic plan is going to be the product of a lot of stakeholders coming together and I’m really excited about the possibility of working with you and others on that project.
Senator Cantwell: One of the issues related to that is obviously the level of congestion that affects our ports or affects our roadways in moving U.S. products to their destination. Some estimates are that it costs U.S. businesses more than 200 billion dollars a year. So do you believe that there is a need to establish a dedicated source of funding for nationally and regionally significant freight mobility projects?
Mayor Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation Nominee: I think it’s something that should be looked at. And I’m sure it would be looked at by the freight council. And as the process moves forward I look forward to working with the council to help implement the ideas that come out of it.
Senator Cantwell: Thank you. Very Washington state centric issue, our ferry system carries annually more than double the total amount of people compared to the Amtrak Northeast Corridor. Our ferries are, like many of the national transportation systems, they face congestion and problems. But oftentimes the funding falls between the cracks. And so I want to make sure that I have your assurances that the ferry system and its funding from the Department of Transportation will receive the support that they deserve as part of our national highway system.
Mayor Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation Nominee: I will absolutely work to advocate for critical transportation systems. And obviously in Washington state the ferry system is one of those.
Senator Cantwell: Thank you. One of the priorities that Chairman Rockefeller passed under his leadership passed was the Aviation Safety Act of 2010. And this was to address the aftermath of the 2009 Colgan air crash. Something that included several rulemakings which have been completed but there are some that still haven’t been. Administrator Huerta told the committee multiple times that new rules for pilot qualifications for these regional aircrafts will be completed before August 1, 2013. This is something that is very important to many of us on this committee. And wanted to get your support and confirming that the committee can count on you to ensure that these rules do get implemented or published by the August 1 deadline.
Mayor Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation Nominee: My understanding is that the process is on track. And I would look forward to working to meet those deadlines if confirmed.
Senator Cantwell: Ok. And one last issue if I could get your thoughts on is the transparency in airline ticket pricing. Last year airlines collected about six billion in baggage and reservation change fees from passengers. But because the growing menu of ancillary fees it’s been increasingly difficult for consumers to compare and shop for airfares. I know that there has been a lot going on both with the department and challenges by the airlines to some of these rules before, almost all the way to the Supreme Court. I know that there are some proposed airline ticket transparency rules now under review by Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But I wanted to get your thoughts on the importance of giving consumers better information so that they can make the right pricing decisions.
Mayor Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation Nominee: Well as someone who purchased airline tickets to get here I certainly would support efforts so that I know as a consumer and other consumers know what they are being charged for. And the processes that you just described are in process and are being worked through with stakeholders and I would certainly like to have a chance to hear all sides of those issues as they move along. But as a consumer I certainly understand.
Senator Cantwell: Thank you. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
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