Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) secured a commitment from Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, the nominee to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to continue efforts to implement a national multimodal freight strategy to strengthen global competitiveness and support economic growth across the country.
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. Freight congestion and other bottlenecks already cost the nation approximately $200 billion per year.
Cantwell has been a leading advocate for a national multimodal freight strategy that can guide future investment by identifying critical trade corridors, bottlenecks, and strengths and weaknesses in the nation's freight network. In 2012, she worked with USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood to create a new federal Freight Policy Council tasked with improving the condition and performance of the national freight network to strengthen the United States' ability to compete in a global economy. Cantwell and LaHood announced the initiative on August 23, 2012, at the Port of Seattle and the North Spokane Corridor in Washington state.
Earlier this year, as a continuation of his pledge to work on freight mobility with Cantwell, Secretary LaHood announced the creation of a new National Freight Advisory Committee. The Committee, which is still being formed, will be comprised of diverse stakeholders from outside the federal government who will provide recommendations on how the freight network can better serve businesses, freight customers and shippers, and regions across the nation.
"I'm very excited that the United States Department of Transportation is working right now on the first national multimodal freight strategic plan," Cantwell said today. "You and I had a chance to talk about this. But I want to hear your thoughts or public commitment to whether you'll continue the work that Secretary LaHood started in implementing a national freight policy?"
"Senator, I'm very excited about this initiative and I want to thank you for your leadership on it. Freight is a critical player in our economy," Foxx responded. "As the process moves forward I look forward to working with the council to help implement the ideas that come out of it."
President Obama nominated Foxx on April 29, 2013, to replace Secretary LaHood, who is resigning.
During today's Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing, Cantwell also asked Foxx about prioritizing funding for ferries as part of the nation's highway system, finalizing implementation of several new aviation safety regulations, and providing transparency for consumers in airline ticket pricing:
F-erries: Cantwell told Foxx that Washington state's ferries carry approximately double the number of people annually compared to the Amtrak Northeast Corridor (22 million vs. 11.4 million), but "oftentimes the funding falls between the cracks." She asked Foxx to commit to ensuring that ferries receive the support they deserve as essential links in the national transportation system. Foxx said that he would "absolutely work to advocate for critical transportation systems" like Washington state's ferry system.
-Aviation Safety: Cantwell also secured a commitment from Foxx to work to meet the August 1, 2013, deadline for the implementation of a pilot qualification rule. The pilot qualification rule was included in a major piece of aviation safety legislation enacted into law in the aftermath of the February 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo, New York. At a hearing last month, Cantwell pressed Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta about the potential impact of sequestration on the implementation of these critical aviation safety rules.
-Transparency in Airline Ticket Pricing: Cantwell also asked Foxx about his thoughts on the importance of giving consumers better airline ticket pricing information so they can make more informed purchasing decisions. Foxx said that as a consumer that had to "purchase airline tickets to get here," he certainly understands and would support efforts to provide better pricing transparency.