Cantwell: Updating U.S. Freight Transportation System Will Strengthen Washington's Trade Economy

With freight demand doubling by 2050, Cantwell proposes legislation to help Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver, other WA Ports increase freight capacity to support business growth


TACOMA, WA – Today at the Port of Tacoma, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) met with Washington state port and transportation officials to discuss how her FREIGHT Act would make critical investments in the state’s freight infrastructure to support a growing export economy. Cantwell was joined by port and rail representatives from across western Washington to discuss the importance of investing in a multimodal freight network that includes road, rail, water, and air to ensure the capacity exists to move goods and products more efficiently. The Focusing Resources, Economic Investment and Guidance to Help Transportation (FREIGHT) Act, co-sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), will promote economic competitiveness, target resources necessary to minimize freight bottlenecks, and protect public health and the environment.
“Generating growth in Washington’s vital trade economy depends on products moving efficiently from farm and factory to port and customers abroad,” said Senator Cantwell (D-WA). “With one in three jobs in Washington depending on trade, and with total national freight demand expected to double from today’s level by 2050, we need a system in place that allows our robust trade economy to grow as the global economy grows. The FREIGHT Act will untangle bottlenecks in and around our ports, allowing imports and exports to move smoothly to and from ships on our road and rail systems while minimizing associated emissions. This legislation puts us on the road to a 21st century freight transportation system, ensuring our export economy remain among the strongest in the nation.”
Click here for supporting quotes from Washington state port, rail and other transportation officials.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nine Washington state cities rank in the Nation’s top 125 freight gateways handling international merchandise by air, land, and water, including Seattle, Tacoma, Blaine, Kalama, Vancouver, Bellingham, Anacortes, and Sumas. The Ports of Tacoma and Seattle together comprise the second largest load center in the nation.
Washington state handles 7 percent of U.S. exports and 6 percent of U.S. imports. In 2009, Washington exported over $51 billion worth of goods – making the state fourth in the nation for exports and first in the nation for exports per capita. Seventy percent of the goods Washington imports get moved either east or south of the state.
The FREIGHT Act would establish a new Office of Freight Planning and Development within the Department of Transportation that would create and coordinate America’s first comprehensive national freight transportation policy to improve efficiency of all the component parts that make up the nation’s freight infrastructure. Additionally, the legislation would authorize 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. FREIGHT would provide states with additional flexibility in where they can direct federal transportation dollars by allowing targeted investments in ports or intermodal facility improvement projects, investments that current law prohibits.
The major objectives of the FREIGHT Act are to:
·         Target investment in freight transportation projects that strengthen the economic competitiveness of the United States with a focus on domestic industries and businesses and the creation of high-value jobs.
·         Promote and advance energy conservation and the environmental sustainability of freight movement.
·         Advance the safety and health of the public, particularly communities adjacent to freight lines.
·         Provide for systematic and balanced investment to improve the overall performance and reliability of the national freight transportation system and ensure that trade facilitation and transportation system improvements are mutually supportive.
·         Promote partnerships between federal, state, and local governments, the private sector, and other transportation stakeholders to leverage investments in freight transportation projects.
·         Encourage adoption of operational policies, such as intelligent transportation systems, to improve the efficiency of freight-related transportation movements and infrastructure.
The FREIGHT Act seeks to:
  • Reduce transportation infrastructure-related delays of goods and commodities entering into and out of international points of entry on an annual basis.
  • Increase the reliability of scheduled travel time along major freight corridors that connect major population centers to freight generators and international gateways on an annual basis.
  • Reduce by 10 percent the number of freight transportation-related fatalities by 2015.
  • Reduce national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030.
  • Reduce freight transportation-related air, water, and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems and communities on an annual basis.
Click here to watch a video of Senator Cantwell’s press conference at the Port of Tacoma.