Today, President Obama is expected to sign a five-year, $305 billion transportation reauthorization bill that Congress overwhelmingly passed yesterday which includes nearly $11 billion in new freight funding grants and programs and other top priorities among America’s seaports. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (H.R. 22) is the first long-term transportation bill in 10 years, and the first ever to make freight a priority and significantly focus on port eligibility throughout the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) funding and planning programs.
The following is a statement from Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) – the unified and recognized voice of America’s seaports.
“The FAST Act is a major achievement, and not just for seaports and the freight community. Passenger mobility will also be improved through congestion relief with the FAST Act provisions that fund and promote more efficient goods movement mobility. These provisions will enhance our international competitiveness in the global economy.
During the past 18 months, AAPA, its member ports and freight industry partners have worked diligently with federal lawmakers, the Obama Administration and USDOT officials to ensure key freight provisions were included in the final bill.
We’re pleased to have played a role in getting this bill approved. It provides $6.3 billion for the new National Highway Freight Program (NHFP), which for the first time provides dedicated formula funding to states for freight projects, including the 1,400 miles of connections with ports and other intermodal facilities. It also funds $4.5 billion for the Nationally and Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, which includes $500 million for multi-modal freight projects and a $450 million (10 percent) ‘carve-out’ for projects ranging from $5 million to $100 million.
We also advocated for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program in which lawmakers agreed to legislate port eligibility and include a section on port-related equipment and vehicles that are eligible for funding.
Furthermore, the bill reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank, requires states to file State Freight Plans to be eligible for NHFP formula funding, and establishes a working group comprised of a broad spectrum of freight interests, including ports, to develop appropriate port performance measures.
Finally, we’re happy that lawmakers authorized more than $1.4 billion for TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) to help finance major infrastructure projects, including those at ports like bridges, overpasses, tunnels and rail systems.
In short, this bill recognizes that ports and their connections are integral parts of our nation’s economy and surface transportation network. It provides resources and policy to help ensure America’s freight moves efficiently and safely on our evolving freight network.
We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the Administration on implementing the new programs in the FAST Act – and to keep freight moving!”