The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) applauds Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member Rahall and Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (Committee) for beginning the surface transportation reauthorization process. Building upon MAP-21’s freight provisions, CAGTC calls on the Committee to adopt the unanimous recommendations issued last October by the bi-partisan Special Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation (Freight Panel).
“We encourage the Committee to heed the bi-partisan call for investment in our nation’s multimodal freight infrastructure and include the Freight Panel’s recommendations in the upcoming surface transportation authorization,” said CAGTC Executive Director Leslie Blakey. “Findings by the Freight Panel represent six months of exhaustive research into the United States’ multimodal freight network. Proper execution of these recommendations is necessary to support manufacturing, jobs, and global economic competitiveness.”
In accordance with the Freight Panel’s October 2013 recommendations, CAGTC encourages the Committee to:
• “Establish a comprehensive national freight transportation policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network”: As called for in Freight Panel Member Rep. Sires’ (D-NJ) MOVE Freight Act of 2013 (H.R. 974), freight policy and planning should incorporate the many modes of transportation that move goods;
• “Ensure robust public investment in all modes”: Freight does not move on highways alone – where public benefit is derived, public investment must be made. Further, leveraging federal dollars with private investment should be encouraged when possible and appropriate;
• “Promote and expedite the development and delivery of projects and activities that improve and facilitate the efficient movement of goods”: Freight projects are often complex and take many years to permit and construct at great cost. They can involve multiple modes of transportation, cross state boundaries, and require multiple environmental reviews. Special attention is needed to streamline these processes and ensure these vital projects are constructed within a reasonable timeframe and cost efficiently;
• “Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight Projects of National and Regional Significance (PNRS) through a competitive grant process and establish clear benchmarks for project selection”: First established under SAFETEA-LU, PNRS is a competitive grant program for large-scale infrastructure projects, frequently multimodal and crossing jurisdictional borders, which are difficult to fund through traditional distribution methods such as formula programs. A freight-focused competitive grant program, such as PNRS, is needed to address high-cost projects that provide significant national and regional economic benefits and increase global competitiveness;
• “Identify and recommend sustainable sources of revenue across all modes”: Acknowledging raising revenue for freight – and sustainable revenue, at that – will not be simple and cannot be delayed, the Panel tasks the Administration with developing a list of options to be vetted by Congress; and
• “Develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects”: Tasking the committees of jurisdiction, Transportation and Infrastructure and Ways and Means, the Panel calls for action on the Administration’s recommended revenue sources.
“Evidence of underinvestment in freight infrastructure continues to grow,” said Mort Downey, CAGTC Founding Chairman. “The recommendations laid out by the Freight Panel provide groundwork to correct this pattern and allow our nation’s goods movement network to reach its potential and support United States commerce.”
The Freight Panel was convened by Committee Chairman Shuster and tasked with examining the current state of freight transportation in the United States and how improving freight transportation can strengthen the United States economy. Coalition member organizations met with and testified before the Freight Panel, including Southern California Association of Governments, Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority, San Bernardino Associated Governments, Maryland Department of Transportation, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, Virginia Port Authority, Florida Department of Transportation and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Many of the Freight Panel’s recommendations coincide with long-held CAGTC policy positions.