Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) joined Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) in introducing legislation that would establish America's first comprehensive national freight transportation policy to support a growing trade economy. The FREIGHT (Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation) Act would ensure America's global economic competitiveness by modernizing the nation's freight transportation system to support the quick and cost-effective movement of goods. The FREIGHT Act is especially important to Washington state, which has one of the most robust export economies in the country.
"Exports play a critical role in Washington's economy, with one in every three jobs in the state tied to trade," said Senator Cantwell. "We need a modern freight transportation system that allows our economy to grow by quickly moving goods from farm to factory to port. The FREIGHT Act establishes America's first comprehensive national freight transportation policy to improve freight mobility and lay the groundwork for strong economic growth and job creation."
Washington state handles seven percent of U.S. exports and six percent of U.S. imports. In 2010, Washington state exported over $53 billion worth of goods, making Washington state fourth in the nation for exports and third in the nation for exports per capita. Together, the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle comprise the second largest load center in the nation.
"The safe and efficient movement of goods across our nation is critical for our businesses, especially for those in my home state of Washington," said Senator Murray, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. "The FREIGHT Act will help bring us a national freight policy that will dramatically improve freight mobility in this country and increase the competitiveness of our businesses, reduce congestion, and provide a much-needed boost to job creation in our communities."
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nine Washington state cities rank in the nation's top 125 freight gateways handling international merchandise by air, land, and water, including Seattle, Tacoma, Blaine, Kalama, Vancouver, Bellingham, Anacortes, and Sumas. Provisions of the FREIGHT Act would help Washington state grow its robust trade economy by making investments to modernize and improve the efficiency of Washington's intermodal freight network, which includes ports, freight railways, air cargo infrastructure, highways, and pipelines.
Last August, Cantwell met with Washington state port and transportation officials to discuss the importance of investing in a multimodal freight network to ensure the capacity exists to move goods and products more efficiently. More than twelve Washington state port, rail, and other transportation officials signed on in support of the FREIGHT Act. View a dozen supporting quotes here.
The FREIGHT Act would direct the federal government to develop and implement a strategic plan to ready the nation's freight transportation system to support economic growth and job creation. The legislation would create a new Office of Freight Planning and Development within the Department of Transportation (DOT) that would coordinate efforts to improve the efficiency and operation of all modes of the national freight transportation system. The Secretary of the DOT would be directed to develop and implement a long-term national freight transportation strategic plan that meets the goals of the FREIGHT Act, and issue biennial progress reports, which would include any challenges to implementation and any requested policy and legislative changes.
The major goals established by the FREIGHT Act are:
* Reduce delays of goods and commodities entering into and out of intermodal connectors that serve international points of entry on an annual basis.
* Increase travel time reliability on major freight corridors that connect major population centers with freight generators and international gateways on an annual basis.
* Reduce by 10 percent the number of freight transportation-related fatalities by 2015.
* Reduce national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030.
* Reduce freight transportation-related air, water, and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems and communities on an annual basis.
The FREIGHT Act would also create a new competitive grant program for freight-specific infrastructure projects, such as port infrastructure improvements, freight rail capacity expansion projects, and highway projects that improve access to freight facilities.
The FREIGHT Act is endorsed by the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors.