Friday, November 1, 2013

Federal Freight Infrastructure Improvement Study Released

Significant investment is needed in the US freight transportation system, according to a newly released House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee panel report that was compiled over the course of six months.

Eleven members of Congress from across the US signed off on the bipartisan, 100-plus page report, which includes a number of recommendations.

Specifically, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation recommends that Congress:

Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, to establish a comprehensive national freight transportation policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network.

Incentivize additional private investment in freight transportation facilities in order to maintain and improve the condition and performance of the freight transportation network.

Promote and expedite the development and delivery of projects and activities that improve and facilitate the efficient movement of goods.

Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight “projects of national and regional significance” through a grant process and establish clear benchmarks for project selection. Projects eligible for such funding would have a regional or national impact on the overall performance of the multimodal freight network identified by the Secretary of Transportation.

Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Army, to identify and recommend sustainable sources of revenue across all modes of transportation that would provide the necessary investment in the country’s multimodal freight network and align contributions with use of, and expected benefit of increased investment in, such network.

Review the freight funding and revenue recommendations and develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects prior to Congress’ consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2014.

“As a representative of a port community and co-founder of the Congressional Ports Caucus, I am pleased that the final report includes recommendations that encourage ports and intermodal facilities to maximize efficiency through off-peak cargo movement, supports full-utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and urges Congress to require critical freight infrastructure operators to develop cyber vulnerability assessments and incident response plans,” Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), who represents an area that includes the Port of Los Angeles, said during an Oct. 29 press conference on the report.

The Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation convened in April 2013 and members served for a period of six months before issuing the recommendations. The panel’s six Republicans and five Democrats were tasked with examining the current state of freight transportation and how improving the system would affect the U.S. economy. The group traveled to several freight hubs across the nation, including the Port of Los Angeles, speaking at length with system users, carriers, and providers.