Cantwell, LaHood Kick Off New Freight Policy Council's First Outreach Meeting

Statement

By:  Maria Cantwell
Date: Sept. 13, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Ray LaHood to kick off the newly created Freight Policy Council's first meeting with freight leaders from across the nation. Today's meeting focused on soliciting input on state freight plans and freight performance measures from more than 100 freight leaders representing states, the freight and logistics industries, businesses, and consumers.

Cantwell and LaHood announced the creation of the Freight Policy Council in Seattle on August 23, 2012, to develop the nation's first comprehensive freight strategic plan. The council is chaired by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari, and includes USDOT leadership representing highways, rail, maritime, and airports, and economic and policy experts from across the Administration. The Freight Policy Council is tasked with improving the condition and performance of the national freight network to better ensure the ability of the United States to compete in today's global economy.

The efficient movement of freight and goods is especially important to Washington state, which exported more per capita last year than any other state in the nation. In 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight was moved in Washington -- a number expected to grow by up to 86 percent by 2040. But congestion threatens this growth -- and the jobs and economic opportunities that come with it. Freight congestion and other bottlenecks already cost the nation approximately $200 billion per year.

"With the Port of Seattle supporting over 110,000 jobs in King County and roughly 200,000 jobs statewide, moving product efficiently and effectively means lots to our economy," Cantwell said at today's Freight Policy Council meeting. "The issue is that in 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight moved in Washington, but by 2040 that number is expected to grow up to 86 percent. So there is the opportunity, and also the challenge."

Cantwell continued: "Over the next 20 years, freight transportation across the nation will grow 30 percent, and that means more jobs, more economic opportunity, more help for our economy, but only if you make the right investments. So that's why I'm so thrilled that USDOT is bringing us all together today, freight industry leaders to talk about new performance measures and state plans and what can be done to improve the network and how to build public and private sector support."

In addition to today's first outreach meeting, starting today, USDOT is hosting a National Online Dialogue on Freight Policy through September 23, 2012. During this period, stakeholders from the freight transportation industry, including business, labor, ports, states, local government, and the general public, are encouraged to contribute ideas and best practices on a new USDOT website. The online discussion is focused around measuring the condition and performance of the freight system, state freight planning, and elements of a national freight strategic plan.

Senator Cantwell has been a supporter of freight mobility improvement legislation in the Senate and urged Secretary LaHood to launch this new freight initiative. On May 31, Cantwell wrote a letter to Secretary LaHood urging him to launch a comprehensive freight initiative to improve federal freight policy and to focus attention on projects that have the maximum benefit to the nation's freight network, economy and taxpayers.

In her letter, Cantwell encouraged USDOT to consider the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board as an example of successful freight coordination, prioritization and collaboration among many modes and diverse interests. Since the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board was created in 1998, it has invested $112.7 million to help complete 41 projects valued at more than $371 million.

Cantwell was a lead sponsor -- along with Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) -- of the FREIGHT (Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation) Act, which was introduced in February 2011.

In early January of this year, Cantwell visited three ports in Washington state -- the Port of Seattle, Port of Pasco and the Port of Vancouver -- to highlight local freight mobility improvement projects that would create jobs and make the movement of goods more efficient in and around the ports.

Cantwell's remarks as delivered at today's Freight Policy Council meeting follow:

We're all here to stand up for freight and freight mobility. And I can just tell you the Washington, my Washington perspective. I like to say when it comes to Washington state: Our economic strategy is "ports are us." That is that more than one million jobs in Washington state are in freight-dependent industries. We ship wheat, apple, wind turbines, and many, many family jobs in Washington state depend on our freight network.

That's why we thought it was very important to highlight for the Secretary in his trip how important this was when we were at the Port of Seattle.

But, the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma together are the third largest load center in the nation. So, with the Port of Seattle supporting over 110,000 jobs in King County and roughly 200,000 jobs statewide moving product efficiently and effectively means lots to our economy.

In fact the Port of Seattle moves nearly $33 billion dollars' worth of cargo annually. So, that's an impressive number but the issue is that in 2010 more than 533 million tons of freight moved in Washington, but by 2040 that number is expected to grow up to 86 percent. So there is the opportunity, and also the challenge.

I am sure that many of you are familiar with similar economic stories throughout the country. In fact if you look at America's competitiveness issues and you look at where our numbers have fallen off, one of the key indicators of how we're going to move forward is in trade in products.

So I like to think of it almost like our own circulatory system in our bodies. If the circulatory system is clogged, we're not going to move very efficiently.

So this is an incredible opportunity and I thank the Department of Transportation and Secretary LaHood for his vision and we certainly thank you for John's future leadership in this issue and I look forward to hearing about his vision. He is definitely someone with great expertise in this and can help us pull all of this together.

Why is it so important? Because every year America faces $200 billion dollars in cost because of bottlenecks. We can't afford that kind of loss in the competition.

Over the next 20 years freight transportation across the nation will grow 30 percent, and that means more jobs, more economic opportunity, more help for our economy, but only if you make the right investments.

And so that's why I'm so thrilled that USDOT is bringing us all together today, freight industry leaders to talk about new performance measures and state plans and what can be done to improve the network and how to build public and private sector support.

I can just tell you briefly in Washington state with our freight mobility board, which has been in place since 1998 when the state legislature passed a budget and created the Strategic Investment Board, but that 12-person board does represent a cross-section like this room today of individuals that give input to this strategy and their mission has been to create a comprehensive program.

So we have a little bit of experience to show you the mistakes to avoid, and the progress that can be made because they have spent over 15 years over $100 million dollars making investments in our state to move freight more efficiently. And they have leveraged $5 dollars for every dollar that they've invested.

So this has been an incredible opportunity and so I look forward to this national council and coordinated vision that you all are going to be a part of in creating for our country. That vision really will bring together trucks, trains, and ships and ports, and American business and workers, and this today is the first step in that reality.

So as someone who comes from Washington state let me just say thank you all for being pioneers in making this journey for a better freight strategy for our nation. Thank you very much.