Cantwell Secures Key Multimodal Freight Provisions to Upgrade Highways, Ports, Railways, Decrease Congestion

$500 million toward a multimodal freight grant program will grow jobs and keep U.S. businesses competitive

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate passed a long-term transportation bill, providing funding for federal transportation programs for five years.   The bill includes the first-ever multimodal freight grant program, which was championed by Senator Cantwell.   The grant program is focused on freight mobility and would fund railway, seaport, and highway projects, such as highway-rail separations, to increase safety and reduce congestion.  The program would also fund on-dock rail systems that help speed the movement of goods through U.S. ports. Senator Cantwell championed the grant program as part of her National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act.

“Fast freight movement means jobs. Our farmers understand it, and the business community gets it. Now, the federal government is catching up to what we have been doing in Washington state for years. Canada has a national freight plan supported by dedicated investment. Now, for the first time, we have a grant program to fund multimodal freight projects. And a National Multimodal Freight Plan that helps target that funding,” said Senator Cantwell.

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.

“Our ports, waterways, and rail connectors need dedicated funding to keep goods moving efficiently and stay competitive in the global marketplace. Including Senator Cantwell’s multimodal freight provisions in this long-term transportation bill is a critical step toward ensuring our region can handle more cargo, more efficiently,” said Kristin Meira, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association.

“With the volume of freight moving across Washington’s transportation network likely to increase by nearly 50 percent to 29 billion tons annually by 2040, these multimodal freight investments are critical to our competitiveness. Washington businesses must be able to transport goods efficiently to and from our ports and over our highways to the rest of the country,” said Eric Schinfeld, President of the Washington Council on International Trade.

Cantwell Multimodal Freight Provisions:

Multimodal freight grant program – For the first time, the long-term transportation bill makes funds available through the Highway Trust Fund to support critical multimodal freight projects, such as on-dock rail at our ports or highway-rail grade separations that reduce congestion. Multimodal freight projects can receive $500 million over five years. Grade separation projects can access an even larger pool of money.

National Multimodal Freight Policy –The bill requires the Secretary of Transportation to develop a National Multimodal Freight Policy. This policy will help identify funding targets that reduce bottlenecks and increase productivity in domestic industries that rely on fast movement.

National Freight Strategic Plan – Under the bill, the Secretary of Transportation is required to develop a National Freight Strategic Plan. That plan will assess the condition of the multimodal freight network, and identify trade gateways and bottlenecks that can be improved with targeted investment.

National Multimodal Freight Network – The bill requires the development of a National Multimodal Freight Network. The Secretary of Transportation has already designated a National Highway Freight Network. This bill requires that port facilities, freight rail lines, and waterways be added to the network to make it multimodal.

State Freight Plans and Advisory Committees -- Washington state targets limited transportation money at critical freight projects using the expertise of its Freight Strategic Investment Board and its Washington State Freight Mobility Plan. The FAST Act requires that states develop their own strategic plans in order to receive freight funding, and encourages them to develop state freight advisory committees.


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