Port Authorities Testify on Congestion

The landside movement of goods and military cargo depend on the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, Godwin told the Commission. She noted that 99% of U.S. overseas trade, by weight, and 61% by value moves through the nation’s ports and harbors. In 2006, waterborne commerce generated nearly $21.4 billion in Customs duties (70% of all duties collected).

Acknowledging the U.S. Department of Transportation’s efforts in developing a draft framework for a National Freight Policy, Godwin went on to point out the shared responsibility of the federal, state and local governments and the private sector. “We can’t just continue to build our way out of problems,” she said.

Despite success with programs such as Pierpass, which provides extended gate hours and incentives for moving cargo in off-peak hours, Godwin said the U.S. does need to add capacity.

While supporting the SAFETEA-LU surface transportation law enacted in 2005, she said that even SAFETEA-LU did not contain language to provide dedicated funding to intermodal freight connectors. “Intermodal connectors are critical to reducing congestion on interstate highways and other roads,” noted Godwin. But there are other major issues for freight, which Godwin called the invisible constituency for lawmakers. To ensure the needs of the freight community are met, Godwin urged state departments of transportation appoint freight coordinators. Among these issues is maintenance dredging of harbors. Spending in fiscal year 2006 for dredging was about $350 million less than the amount needed despite the fact sufficient revenues were generated to cover the needs. Funds should be made available each year to fully meet maintenance needs, she said.

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