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Rep. Lowenthal Bill Will Create Dedicated Revenue Source To Invest In Crumbling National Freight Infrastructure

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Washington, D.C., March 18, 2015 | comments
“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,” Congressman Lowenthal said.
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In an effort to strengthen America’s economic competitiveness, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) has introduced bipartisan legislation which will provide a dedicated revenue source to invest in rebuilding our nation’s crumbling freight infrastructure.

“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,” Congressman Lowenthal said.

The Congressman’s bill, H.R.1308, Economy in Motion: The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act, would raise roughly $8 billion a year dedicated to freight-related infrastructure projects throughout the nation, with a focus on multimodal projects and projects that help relieve the bottlenecks in the freight transportation system.

“Because we have been neglecting our infrastructure, the stresses and strains causing our roadways and bridges to deteriorate threaten our quality of life,” Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), an original cosponsor of the bill, said. “We cannot allow the transport of consumer goods, agricultural products, and industrial equipment to be taken for granted. I am happy to be cosponsoring this farsighted legislation to keep our economy in motion and thus Americans’ livelihoods sustained well into the future,”

The bill would establish the Freight Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund and be funded through a national 1 percent waybill fee on the transportation cost of goods.

“The City and Port of Long Beach need funding to improve the Long Beach Freeway’s (I-710) increasing traffic volumes, aging infrastructure, and serious congestion.  H.R. 1308 will provide an ongoing source of funding which will allow us to implement freight specific solutions, while delivering air quality benefits to the greater Long Beach community,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. 

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 the state. To be eligible, states must develop comprehensive State Freight Plans. They must also have, or form, State Freight Advisory Committees, as encouraged under MAP-21, the federal highway authorization enacted in 2012.

In addition, the state freight plans will contain environmental goals and strategies developed by state freight advisory committee members; providing a path for freight projects to address and reduce the environmental and community impacts of goods movement.

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

In order to address the growing national backlog of infrastructure needs to support our economy, sustained investment at the $8 billion level is necessary.

The latest report card on America’s infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers rated America’s national bridges and rail system with a C+, our ports with a C, and our roads with a D. The overall grade for our entire infrastructure system was a D+.

According to a September 2014 national infrastructure report by the National Association of Manufacturers, “New funding will help the United States catch up from a well-documented backlog of deferred infrastructure projects that have accumulated over the past 10 years, including maintenance, repair, and new capacity. Many of the critical problems already are identified. It is urgent to take immediate action on long-standing and stalled projects.”

A growing coalition of supporters for the bill include government agencies, municipalities, trade groups, private industry and others who recognize our nation’s economy depends on efficient and connected goods movement infrastructure.

"Our port, and all U.S. ports, need to make major investments to remain competitive,” Port of Long Beach CEO Jon Slangerup said. “So the Port of Long Beach is supportive of innovative efforts to assist in funding freight and transportation projects. H.R. 1308 is a step in the right direction and we look forward to working with Congressman Lowenthal and others to address solutions to meet other national infrastructure needs."

“H.R. 1308 is a smart and well-crafted bill that tackles the nation’s freight transportation issues head on,” said Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County, California, Supervisor and chair of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “Whether it’s exporting goods through the Port of Oakland or moving freight up and down the East Coast, Congressman Lowenthal recognizes that goods movement is a national priority and a key to maintaining America’s global competitiveness. The bill not only creates a dedicated national trust fund for freight transport but also provides a simple and efficient way to sustain the fund for the long haul.”

“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. Unreliable, congested, and inefficient goods movement infrastructure costs businesses, workers and consumers with a hidden tax that saps prosperity," President and Executive Director of the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors Leslie Blakey said. "When the government fails to invest in the engine that drives commerce, everyone pays the tax but no one takes responsibility for it. Passage of H.R. 1308 would give America back its competitive infrastructure edge.”

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Arthur T. Leahy said, “Metro believes the efficient movement of freight cargo is vital to improving the mobility of all the residents in Los Angeles County. Having resources dedicated to projects that will improve the flow of goods from the County’s two ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, will improve mobility, air quality, the economy and most importantly the safety of those who use our highways and transit. Metro is appreciative of Congressman Lowenthal for being a leader on this issue and offering a solution that will improve the quality of lives for millions throughout Los Angeles County.”

H.R. 1308 was introduced on March 4 with original cosponsors Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14). Representative Mark Takano (CA-41) is also a cosponsor.
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