Senators Work to Protect Essential Freight Policies, Investments in Long-Term Transportation Bill
Senators urge committee to remove funding restrictions on freight projects
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tom Carper (D-DE), pressed Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, and Senators on the long-term transportation bill conference committee to maintain in the final conference report critical freight policy and the multimodal freight grant program contained in the Senate-passed DRIVE Act.
The multimodal freight grant program is the first-ever grant program focused solely on freight and would fund railway, seaport, and highway projects such as highway-rail separations to increase safety and on-dock rail systems to lower congestion. Senator Cantwell championed the grant program as part of her National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act.
The senators also urged the conference committee to remove any restrictions on the amount of funding that can go to multimodal freight projects.
“We strongly encourage you to include the policy and funding provisions contained in the Freight Division of the Senate-passed DRIVE Act in the final conference report, and to remove any restrictions on the amount of funding that can go to multimodal freight projects under the bill,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “As the global middle class continues to grow, the United States needs to maintain its competiveness through its ability to move products to the international marketplace. Increased global trade, as we see in our every increasing flow of exports and imports, makes clear that robust investment in our nation’s freight network needs to be made now.”
Currently, the rapid movement of goods is bottlenecked by delays in the freight system, which cost American businesses, farmers, and shippers $200 billion a year. According to a recent report, multimodal freight moving through Washington state could grow 77% by 2030, yet the Washington State Department of Transportation found that a 20% increase in freight congestion could result in a loss of $3.3 billion and more than 27,000 jobs statewide. Unless smart investments are made in our nation’s freight infrastructure, the United States as a whole could face losses of up to $1.3 trillion and stands to lose more than 700,000 jobs by 2020.
The full letter can be viewed here.
Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Reid, Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Boxer,
As you work to reach an agreement on final long-term surface transportation legislation, we strongly encourage you to include the policy and funding provisions contained in the Freight Division of the Senate-passed DRIVE Act in the final conference report, and to remove any restrictions on the amount of funding that can go to multimodal freight projects under the bill. These important initiatives will help ensure that goods move more efficiently across our multimodal transportation network, and are critical to the United States’ remaining competitive in the 21st Century global economy.
World-wide demand for American-made goods is increasing and the volume of our imports is at a near all-time high. As commercial volume increases, so does the need to improve our approach to moving these products. According to the Department of Transportation, 54 million tons of goods valued at $48 billion move through the United States daily. The freight transportation industry supports tens of millions of jobs across the United States: our ports support 23.1 million jobs; trucking supports nearly 7 million jobs; and freight rail supports more than a million jobs. In order to protect these jobs and keep commerce moving more freely, dedicated investment is needed in America’s freight corridors.
The Senate-passed DRIVE Act includes the first-ever national multimodal freight policy, including a multimodal freight plan, and a program designed to specifically invest in multimodal freight projects across the country. In addition to a robust freight formula program, and a competitive grant program to fund megaprojects that expedite freight mobility, the bill included a first-ever multimodal freight grant program. The Assistance for Freight Projects program makes funding available to multimodal freight projects that otherwise have difficulty competing for federal funding. Dedicated funding for freight projects is critical to improving the efficiency of the network, and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have long supported dedicated funding for freight.
Freight investment is a critical and essential component of our nation’s infrastructure. The Senate bill achieves that goal and those provisions should be included in the conference report. As the global middle class continues to grow, the United States needs to maintain its competiveness through its ability to move products to the international marketplace. Increased global trade, as we see in our every increasing flow of exports and imports, makes clear that robust investment in our nation’s freight network is needed now.
We urge you to maintain the Senate’s Freight Division in the conference report, especially dedicated funding for critical freight corridor projects. Further, any language capping the amount of funding that can be awarded to multimodal projects should not be included in the final bill.
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