Washington, D.C. — In conjunction with Infrastructure Week (May 15-19), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA),  and the Congressional PORTS Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) held a panel briefing on an array of freight related issues. Chief among them was implementation of the freight-related provisions under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the first long-term surface transportation legislation to authorize funds for freight mobility, providing $2 billion annually through 2020.

“State DOTs have embraced the charge made in the FAST Act to establish state freight plans that will serve as the building blocks for the nation’s 21st-century multi-modal freight network,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. “When America invests in surface transportation infrastructure that supports the movement of freight and goods, it supports economic development, jobs, and quality of life because everything from life-saving medications, to automobiles and food, moves on the freight network.”

Titled “By Road, Rail and Sea: Building a 21st Century Multi-modal Freight Network,” the panel briefing was moderated by Molly Campbell, port commerce director, at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The panelists were Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson; Port of Port Arthur TX., Deputy Port Director Larry Kelley; BNSF Railway Senior Vice President Amy Hawkins; and American Trucking Associations First Vice-Chairman David Manning. The panelists also covered other aspects of multi-modal freight infrastructure issues, ranging from enhancing rail access to dredging projects to accommodate larger ocean-going ships.

“Overall, activities at our nation’s ports support 23 million American jobs, generate $4.6 trillion in annual economic activity and produce $321 billion a year in tax receipts,” said Kurt Nagle, president, and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities. “To build America’s 21st-century seaport infrastructure and ensure these economic impacts continue, our ports need a combined $66 billion of federal investments over the next 10 years into the roads, rails, and waterways that connect to them.”

In December 2016 AASHTO and AAPA released the State of Freight II Report (https://aapa.files.cms-plus.com/PDFs/SOF-2.pdf), which shows that state DOTs are often the laboratory of innovation. Funding freight-related programs are no exception with six states reporting at the time that they had some form of an authorized freight program and 16 states or 31 percent, reported that they dedicate funding to freight projects annually.

“In Louisiana, we estimate we’ll need to invest nearly $56 billion to improve our ports, highways, waterways, rail and other important infrastructure over the next 25 years,” said Secretary Wilson. “That’s a major investment in our state and without the help of the Federal government, freight investments in Louisiana and other states won’t be enough to allow states and this country to be globally competitive or successful.”

In a dynamic environment, port and state DOT officials need the funding and flexibility to adapt to new trade patterns in order to accommodate anticipated freight growth. Congress must continue to provide the resources to states for highway freight projects through the National Highway Freight program and fully enable tax revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Tax to be used for the intended purpose of navigation channel maintenance. AASHTO and AAPA will continue to gather input from the transportation industry and its partners in identifying infrastructure needs and advocating for solutions to build a 21st-century freight network.

A complete uncut video of the panel briefing is available on AASHTO’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/_qTD9KGqgg8.