WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today introduced legislation that would establish a freight transportation policy to ensure the nation’s transportation system supports the United States’ global economic competitiveness. The legislation would direct the federal government to develop and implement a strategic plan to improve the nation’s freight transportation system and provide investment in freight transportation projects. The goals include reducing congestion and delays, increasing the timely delivery of goods and services, reducing freight-related transportation fatalities, and making freight transportation more efficient and better for the environment.
“We are long overdue in establishing a national freight transportation policy that will meet the economic and mobility demands of the 21st Century,” said Senator Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security. “Poor planning and underinvestment in our transportation infrastructure has led to increased congestion at our ports, highways, airports, and railways, and increases the cost of doing business. If we want to help U.S. businesses succeed and create new jobs, we need a freight transportation system that works better and can grow with the changing needs of the global economy. This bill would put us on that path.”
This bill is especially important to Washington state, which depends on trade and has one of the most robust export economies in the country. One out of three jobs in Washington depends on trade. And in 2009, Washington state exported over $51 billion worth of goods, making Washington state fourth in the nation for exports and first in the nation for exports per capita.
“The safe and efficient movement of goods across our nation is critical for our businesses, especially for those in my home state of Washington,” said Senator Murray, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. “The FREIGHT Act will help bring us a national freight policy that will dramatically improve freight mobility in this country and increase the competitiveness of our businesses, reduce congestion, and provide a much-needed boost to job creation in our communities.”
“Exports play a critical role in Washington state’s economy,” said Senator Cantwell. “A key piece of any thriving export economy is the smooth shipment of freight from farm and factory to port and customers. This legislation will help our export economy remain among the strongest in the nation by understanding how to maximize the way road, rail, sea, air and pipelines interact.”
The “Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation (FREIGHT) Act of 2010” would establish America’s first comprehensive national freight transportation policy and create a new Office of Freight Planning and Development within the Department of Transportation (DOT) that would coordinate efforts to improve the efficiency and operation of all modes of the national freight transportation system. The Secretary of the DOT would be directed to develop and implement a long-term national freight transportation strategic plan that meets the goals of the FREIGHT Act, and issue biennial progress reports, which would include any challenges to implementation and any requested policy and legislative changes.
The major goals established by the FREIGHT Act are:
- Reduce delays of goods and commodities entering into and out of intermodal connectors that serve international points of entry on an annual basis.
- Increase travel time reliability on major freight corridors that connect major population centers with freight generators and international gateways on an annual basis.
- Reduce by 10 percent the number of freight transportation-related fatalities by 2015.
- Reduce national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030.
- Reduce freight transportation-related air, water, and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems and communities on an annual basis.
The FREIGHT Act also would create a new competitive grant program for freight-specific infrastructure projects, such as port infrastructure improvements, freight rail capacity expansion projects, and highway projects that improve access to freight facilities.
The bill is endorsed by the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. The organization's support letter can be found here: http://lautenberg.senate.gov/assets/FREIGHT.pdf.