Bill would create dedicated revenue source for freight infrastructure

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., introduced bipartisan legislation to create a dedicated revenue source to direct more than $100 billion over 10 years to rebuilding the nation’s freight infrastructure and strengthen America’s economic competitiveness.

“Our entire national economy is built on goods movement. To remain a global leader, we have no choice but to invest in expanding the condition, reliability, and efficiency of our nation’s goods movement system and freight infrastructure,” Lowenthal said in a statement. “In the past, our leaders understood the importance of this infrastructure and invested billions upon billions to create one of the best transportation systems in the world. But now, after decades of neglect, our infrastructure is crumbling around us. We must take action to rebuild it and strengthen it, all in a way that simultaneously addresses the negative environmental and public health impacts of freight movement on communities adjacent to this infrastructure.”

In 2015, Congress for the first time outlined a national freight policy in the bipartisan Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Key components of Rep. Lowenthal’s earlier proposals on freight infrastructure funding to set up both formula and competitive programs for freight infrastructure programs were included in the FAST Act.

The bill introduced by Tuesday, H.R 2723, The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act, builds on the success of the FAST Act and ensures continued investment in the goods movement network. The bill would raise over $10 billion a year dedicated to freight-related infrastructure projects throughout the nation, with a focus on multimodal projects and projects that rebuild aging infrastructure while relieving bottlenecks in the freight transportation system.

To accomplish this, the bill would establish the Freight Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund, funded through a national 1% waybill fee on the transportation cost of goods.

The bill invests these funds in two programs: a formula program to distribute funds to each state based on the amount of existing infrastructure within the state, and a competitive grant program what would be open to all local, regional, and state governments. Within the competitive grant program, 5% of funds would be set-aside for zero-emissions projects.

Sustained investment in our freight infrastructure is necessary to address the growing national backlog of infrastructure needs to support our economy.

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

ASCE made clear in the report that, “Our nation is at a crossroads. Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future. While we have made some progress, reversing the trajectory after decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people.”

Original cosponsors of the Congressman’s bill include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Matthew Cartwright (PA-08), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Katie Hill (CA-25), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Mark Meadows (NC-11), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Harley Rouda (CA-48), and Mark Takano (CA-41).

To read the text of the bill, click this link.

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