While the general reaction to the release yesterday of a detailed report on “Improving the Nation’s Freight Transportation System” by a special panel of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure appears highly favorable, the question of exactly how highway along with other freight-infrastructure projects will be fully funded remains up in the air.
Perhaps the panel’s key recommendation is that Congress (via both the House Transportation and Ways & Means committees) should “develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects prior to Congress’ consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2014.”
Bill Graves, president & CEO of the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) said the top trucking lobby supports the panel’s findings and also pitches for the continued funding of highway infrastructure through fuel taxation.
"We're pleased that it appears the movement of freight will be front and center in the next reauthorization, and we're supportive of the panel's recommendations that relate to highways,” Graves said in a statement.
“We also agree with the panel that Congress and the Administration must do something in the next reauthorization to address the looming shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund with sustainable revenue,” he continued.
“We have said, and continue to believe,” Graves stressed, “that the fuel tax is the most direct and sustainable way of addressing this shortfall rather than other, less traditional financing schemes."
“The report raises a number of important issues about the need to invest in vital freight transportation corridors,” Brian Turmail, executive director of public affairs for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the leading construction lobby, told FleetOwner.
“And while only a small percentage of our members are responsible for the construction of freight infrastructure, all of them are hyper-reliant on them,” he continued.
“That is because there are few industries as dependent on an efficient transportation system as construction,” Turmail explained. “Our members not only have to frequently transport their entire operation to new job sites, but they also operate on tight installation schedules that only work when key building components arrive on time. After all, most construction sites are far too compact to allow for storing windows, HVAC systems or other components.”
Turmail pointed out that AGC also “agrees with the report’s conclusion that we need to find ways to fully fund new transportation investments.
“Clearly the next step is for Congress, transportation users and the Administration to engage in a substantive conversation about the best ways to raise the revenue needed to make the investments outlined in this new report,” he added.
The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) said in a statement that it “applauds” the panel’s recommendations.
The freight-transportation lobby pointed especially to the “call to identify a revenue source for freight infrastructure funding, designation of a multimodal freight network, and the sustained continuation of a freight-focused Projects of National and Regional Significance (PNRS) competitive grant program, noting these are all policies CAGTC has “long promoted.”
“Panel Chairman Duncan [R-TN] and Ranking Member Nadler [D-NY], along with their fellow Panel members and staff, have done a tremendous job consulting with the nation’s foremost freight experts and synthesizing recommendations that, if executed properly, will drive our nation’s global trade competitiveness for decades to come,” said Sharon Neely, chairman of CAGTC and chief deputy executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.
Mort Downey, CAGTC’s founding chairman remarked that the “findings reflect positions our Coalition has championed for many years and we look forward to working with the Panel to ensure their recommendations enjoy the same broad, bipartisan support among all of Congress.”