Friday, March 20, 2015

Calif. Congressman Introduces Freight Infrastructure Legislation

By Mark Edward Nero

US Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) has introduced bipartisan legislation that he says would provide a dedicated revenue source to invest in rebuilding America’s aging freight infrastructure.

The bill Lowenthal introduced in the House on March 4 is H.R.1308, also known as the National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act. It would raise roughly $8 billion a year for freight-related infrastructure projects throughout the US, with a focus on multimodal projects and projects that help relieve the bottlenecks in the freight transportation system.

“Goods movement is one of the most powerful economic engines in our nation. And yet, the infrastructure this engine depends on is crumbling around us. We have the ability to fix it, make it stronger, and make it better, while also taking action to address the negative impacts of goods movement on our communities,” Lowenthal said. His bill would establish the Freight Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund and be subsidized through a national one percent waybill fee on the transportation cost of goods. To invest the funds, the bill creates two freight specific grant programs.

The first is a formula system in which each state would receive funds each year based on the amount of existing freight infrastructure within that state. To be eligible, states would have to develop comprehensive state freight plans and also have, or form, state freight advisory committees, which are encouraged in the federal highway authorization enacted in 2012, MAP-21.

In addition, the state freight plans would contain environmental goals and strategies developed by state freight advisory committee members, in order to address and reduce the environmental and community impacts of goods movement.

A second funding mechanism would be a competitive grant program open to all local, regional and state governments.

“Congressman Lowenthal is right on the mark with this bill, which will help American industry grow and create jobs as it competes more effectively in domestic and international markets,” said Leslie Blakey, president and executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. “Unreliable, congested, and inefficient goods movement infrastructure costs businesses, workers and consumers with a hidden tax that saps prosperity.”

In addition to Lowenthal, H.R. 1308’s original cosponsors are Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI). Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) is also a cosponsor.