Friday, December 09, 2011

House bill calls for "National Freight Fund

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House Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on Thursday introduced legislation aimed at funding “the nation’s oversubscribed and underfinanced freight infrastructure network.”

H.R. 3607 calls for the creation of a national freight fund financed by new fees collected from freight system users of various modes. The funds would be available only for freight projects and distributed on a competitive basis, an approach the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) says it began advocating in 2005.

CAGTC includes more than 60 public and private organizations dedicated to increasing federal investment in America’s intermodal freight infrastructure. Railroad industry members include Florida East Coast Railway and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association. Numerous port authorities, state DOTs, and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) also claim membership.

“Our multimodal freight transportation system is a national asset that we have failed to appreciate and support. Nowhere is this need more pressing than in the freight system that provides for our nation’s commerce,” said Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Meyer. “Without strategic corridor investments to expand capacity and increase efficiency, U.S. productivity and global competitiveness will suffer, costs will increase and investment will lag. We applaud Congressman Smith’s efforts to make this vision of strategic freight mobility a reality.”

Though multimodal cooperation is stressed by the bill's backers, CAGTC’s envisioned list of projects eligible to receive funding include “construction of highway lanes—including lanes that separate freight and passenger traffic,” which could compete with freight rail for market share, in addition to more traditional projects such as highway/rail grade separations or intermodal facilities.

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