President Obama released his Administration’s first-ever surface transportation authorization proposal, which would provide $10 billion in dedicated funding for freight over the bill’s four-year duration. Of that, $5 billion would be distributed through a two-tiered incentive grant program for states; incentives include creating a state freight advisory council and state freight plan, as well as collaborating with neighboring states to analyze needs. The remaining $5 billion, plus any unused money from the state-based incentive grant program, would be distributed through a discretionary competitive grant program to support freight-related infrastructure investments across all freight-carrying modes.
The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) applauds the Administration’s vision for redefining the federal government’s role in providing resources for the critical network of multimodal infrastructure that supports U.S. manufacturing, agriculture, business, and each American’s daily life.
“The Administration’s innovative approach will create jobs for American workers and also help both small and large communities across America by enabling transportation planners to prioritize freight projects that allow businesses to move goods to consumers and foreign markets,” said Sharon Neely, CAGTC Chairman and Deputy Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Governments. “We thank the Administration for hearing our call and hope Congress will seriously consider this plan for prioritizing investment in freight infrastructure to keep our nation globally competitive.”
In total, the legislation proposes investing $302 billion in transportation over four years; the President’s FY 2015 budget proposal, released in February, puts forward a combination of highway trust fund revenues and corporate tax reform proceeds to pay for the programs. In addition to the $10 billion of freight-specific funding, the proposal would codify the popular Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program, providing $5 billion over four years.
“The Administration’s combination of grant programs creates a ‘Race to the Top’ for increasing freight capacity and improving conditions in freight-intensive localities across the United States,” said Leslie Blakey, President and Executive Director, CAGTC. “We are truly pleased that freight’s economic importance has been elevated in this proposal and we look forward to continuing our work with Congress and the Administration to ensure freight receives much-needed funding in passed legislation.”
CAGTC has long advocated a freight-specific grant program to award funding through the use of merit-based criteria that identifies and prioritizes projects with a demonstrable contribution to freight efficiency. Freight projects are typically large-scale, frequently multimodal and cross jurisdictional borders, making them difficult to fund through traditional distribution methods such as formula programs.