Democratic Senators Push for New Freight Program

Several Democratic Senators, including Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), have introduced the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation Act of 2010 (FREIGHT Act), a bill that calls for the creation of a new National Freight Infrastructure Grants initiative—a competitive, merit-based program with broad eligibility for multimodal freight investment designed to focus funds where they will provide the most public benefit.

"If we want to help U.S. businesses succeed and create new jobs, we need a freight transportation system that works better and can grow with the changing needs of the global economy," says Senator Lautenberg.

The FREIGHT Act of 2010 directs the Department of Transportation (USDOT) to develop and implement two institutional advances designed to improve and coordinate policy within the federal government and the states. The first is a National Freight Transportation Strategic Plan to guide and inform goods movement infrastructure investments in future years. In addition, it calls for the creation of an Office of Freight Planning and Development, led by an Assistant Secretary for Freight Planning and Development. The bill instructs USDOT to develop baselines, tools and methods within two years to measure progress.

In developing the National Freight Transportation Policy, the FREIGHT Act also encourages concurrent improvements in air quality impacts, carbon emissions, energy use and public health and safety by establishing environmental goals to complement goals for reducing delays and improving travel time reliability on freight corridors, at gateways and heavy freight population centers. Similarly, the grant program sets criteria to prioritize projects that improve freight mobility and enhance economic growth, while incentivizing environmental improvements.

System performance is emphasized throughout the FREIGHT Act and projects will be judged on benefit-cost analysis. The significant overlap among public and private interests in the freight system is recognized through encouraged planning and cooperation with private sector interests, while the grant program leverages Federal investment by promoting non-Federal contributions to projects.

The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, Environmental Defense Fund and Transportation for America have agreed to work together in support of the FREIGHT Act and call upon all in the transportation community to join in support.

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