Congressman Lowenthal Remarks On Freight Infrastructure Funding to Eno Freight Working Group
The following are the prepared remarks of Congressman Alan Lowenthal at his appearance before the Eno Freight Working Group on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in Washington, D.C.:
Hello, I'm Congressman Alan Lowenthal.
It is a pleasure to be with you here today, and I cannot imagine a better or more pressing time for us to be having this conversation.
I represent the 47th District of California, which comprises parts of southeastern Los Angeles County and parts of northwestern Orange County.
I also represent the Port of Long Beach, which together with the neighboring Port of Los Angeles is the busiest container port complex in the Western Hemisphere.
I don't need to tell anyone in this room that our ports are the backbone of our global economy.
But our goods movement system is the nervous system.
Yet, we do not currently have a national investment strategy specific to freight infrastructure.
Since arriving in Congress, one of my top priorities has been to build recognition on Capitol Hill for the essential role of an efficient and connected multimodal freight infrastructure system.
In fact, each of the following have recommended a national freight program:
--The President and Transportation Secretary Foxx
--The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Freight Panel; and
--The National Freight Advisory Committee
This is why I have proudly introduced a detailed freight-specific infrastructure funding bill.
My bill, H.R.1308, would set up a National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Program, with both Formula Grants for States and Competitive Grants for States, Local, and Regional Governments.
The grants will pay for freight roads, rail, multimodal connectors, first and last mile projects and grade separations.
The bill is funded through a 1 percent fee on goods movement that is projected to provide $8 billion annually.
Moreover, the funds raised by the bill are secured in a Freight Trust Fund.
The combination of a sustainable revenue source and a dedicated trust fund mean that money raised from users of the freight system would go directly back into improving that system.
There has been plenty of talk on Capitol Hill about investing in freight infrastructure and the need to bring our goods movement system into the 21st century. But I fear that current discussions about using repatriation and tax reform to fund our transportation system are only temporary one-time measures, and will land us right back in the same place, having this very same conversation, in just a few years.
I firmly believe that until we start getting serious about finding viable, sustainable funding streams we will not have a permanent solution that keeps goods movement in the United States competitive in an increasingly interconnected world.
I really appreciate the work that you all have done in determining the opportunities and challenges that various funding mechanisms present and then balancing those pros and cons. As I was first developing this bill, with the input of stakeholders from all sectors of the industry, we conducted a similar process of going through various proposed means of funding.
A freight user fee is an equitable and sustainable source of funding that, while not perfect, presents a viable, fair revenue stream that I believe both stakeholders and policymakers can get behind.
We all know that there will be some challenges in implementation and ensuring that all users are paying into the system – as there are with any new system.
At the same time, I absolutely believe that the benefits from investing in our infrastructure—whether it's expanding efficiency, cutting delivery times, boosting reliability—will far outweigh the costs of a fee – and that's why we have so much support.
I hope that I can count on you all to join me in calling on my colleagues in Congress to get behind a sustainable funding stream for freight infrastructure.
We must reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund, but we need to be looking beyond the next five years—we need to be thinking about the next fifty years.
I believe that Congress must include a dedicated, reliable source of funding for freight, and that source of funding is a fee on goods movement.
I ask you all to help me in spreading that message to lawmakers, and holding Congress accountable for ensuring that we are serious about fixing and maintaining our freight infrastructure.
Thank you, and I look forward to continuing this discussion.