In Seattle, Cantwell, Transportation Secretary LaHood Announce Creation of Freight Policy Council

SEATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the launch of the Freight Policy Council, which will focus 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.

The council will develop a national, intermodal plan for improving the efficiency of freight movement and will work with states to encourage development of a forward looking state freight strategy. The announcement was made today at the PCC Logistics Duwamish Facility in Seattle, WA.

“Our freight system is the lifeblood of the American economy, moving goods quickly and efficiently to benefit both businesses and consumers across the country,” said Secretary LaHood. “With the launch of the Freight Policy Council, we have an opportunity to make not only our freight system, but all modes of transportation, stronger and better connected.”

The recent transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, signed by President Obama last month, established a national freight policy and called for the creation of a National Freight Strategic Plan. DOT’s Freight Policy Council will implement the key freight provisions of the legislation. A strong freight transportation system is essential for helping meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015. 

The Council will be chaired by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari, and will include DOT leadership from highways, rail, ports, and airports, and economic and policy experts from across the Administration. The freight and logistics industries, consumers and other stakeholders will also play an advisory role, and states will be asked to offer proposals for improving the freight system in their region.

“With increasing competition abroad, Washington businesses require a 21st century approach to moving goods,” Cantwell said. “This new Freight Policy Council provides the roadmap our nation needs to stay competitive and grow our trade economy. Smart freight planning is especially important to Washington state, where more than one million jobs are in freight-dependent industries.”

Senator Cantwell has been a tireless supporter of freight mobility improvement legislation in the Senate and urged Secretary LaHood to launch this new freight initiative. On May 31, Cantwell wrote a letter to Secretary LaHood urging him 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 was a lead sponsor – along with Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) – of the FREIGHT (Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation) Act, which was introduced in February 2011.

The nation’s freight transportation system moves goods on ships, rails and roads. Today, every American is responsible for 40 tons of freight a year. A more efficient freight network will reduce traffic congestion, environmental impact and shipping costs, which will lead to lower prices for consumers.

The Department of Transportation continues to invest in freight through our grant and loan programs. Over $953 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funds have gone to 50 projects that improve freight. More than a third of TIGER funding – $354 million – went to 25 port projects from coast to coast. Freight projects are also eligible for the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program which provides up to $35 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Under MAP-21, freight projects can also qualify for $1.75 billion in Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) funding for the next two years.