While momentum on a new long-term federal surface transportation authorization has been largely slow, especially during a Presidential election year that has not stopped Democrat members on the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure whom this week issued a “list of infrastructure principles.”
These infrastructure principles were released in the form of a five-year, $760 billion outline, entitled “Moving Forward Framework,” which House Democrats said aims to get the country’s “existing infrastructure working again and fund new transformative projects that will create more than 10 million jobs, while reducing carbon pollution, dramatically improving safety, and spurring economic activity. It’s infrastructure investment that is smarter, safer, and made to last.
This framework was issued just a few months before the current federal surface transportation authorization, the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act expires on September 30, 2020.
This wide-ranging legislation has various supply chain and freight transportation-related goals and objectives, including:
$329 billion allocated for modern highways and highway safety investments, with a focus on delivering better roads and bridges faster by prioritizing fixing the broken outdated infrastructure in the U.S., including the 47,000 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S.;
modernizing U.S. infrastructure with new funding for addressing the most impactful projects and bottlenecks that affect local regions and the national transportation network;
invest in reducing carbon pollution from the transportation sector and improving the resilience of infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change; and
$19.7 billion allocated for harbor infrastructure, which will fund the essential dredging and upkeep of American harbors, ports, and channels—keeping commerce flowing and ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness—by making sure the fees collected from maritime shippers go toward regular harbor maintenance, among others
This framework was applauded by the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC).
“Existing freight infrastructure investment programs are oversubscribed at a rate of roughly $12 in needs to $1 in funding,” said CAGTC Executive Director Elaine Nessle in a statement. “We applaud House Democrats for their proposal to boost funding across the infrastructure spectrum and look forward to working with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as the Ways and Means Committee to ensure that the level of multimodal freight infrastructure investment is increased to align with needs.”
At this week’s SMC3 JumpStart 2020 conference in Atlanta, Randy Mullett, principal of Mullett Strategies, a consulting practice focused on helping clients navigate the intricacies of Washington, DC in the areas of trucking, freight, sustainability, security, and safety, and longtime Government Relations and Public Affairs official for Con-way and XPO Logistics, said that even with this framework issued, coupled with the bitter political climate at the moment, getting this bill signed into law could prove to be an uphill battle.
“I anticipate that in a Presidential election year because we have had every Democratic candidate say they are going to raise taxes, very few of them are going to say ‘in addition to your income taxes and your business taxes, we are also going to increase your gas taxes,’” he said. “I would not anticipate that argument and debate is not going to take place until after the election. I am not even confident we will get a bill done next year, but everything that gets started this year will be the basis for what is to come.”
Jennifer Hedrick, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) said at SMC3 that she agreed with Mullett’s analysis, while adding that her organization continues to go to Capitol Hill and make sure these national infrastructure issues are in front of members of Congress.
“When the work is actually happening, this will help Congress to be prepared and hear about things from our perspective,” she said.
And Chris Burroughs, vice president of government affairs for the Transportation Intermediaries Association, observed that the presents remains a vital time to let legislators know the importance of getting a new bill passed, with this framework serving as a key jumping off point.
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