United States ports have welcomed the USD 305 billion, five-year plan for surface transportation reauthorization, dubbed the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, agreed by the US House-Senate conference committee.
According to the industry body, American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), U.S. ports and the entire freight-handling industry will have at their disposal around USD 11 billion in funding slated for freight programs.
AAPA strongly urged House and Senate conferees to include dedicated funding for freight projects, omit specific port performance metrics, and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which they did. The result, says AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle, is a compromise bill that elevates the priority of freight movement in a way that constitutes major progress in recognizing the value of America’s seaports and freight network to the economy, jobs creation and international competitiveness.
“AAPA is pleased by the broad eligibility of seaports for infrastructure grants and other financing in this bill,” noted Nagle.
“For the first time we have dedicated funding for multimodal freight projects. This is a big step forward. It shows that Congress and the Administration firmly recognize that seaports must be connected to America’s surface transportation network in order for the freight network to be efficient.”
Additionally, Nagle said that placing freight policy under the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Under Secretary for Policy will pay immediate dividends.
Many of the policy and funding freight programs included in the FAST Act conference report were discussed in AAPA’s 2015: The State of Freight, released last April. In that report, U.S. ports alone identified upwards of 46 needed multimodal projects totaling USD 7.5 billion over the next decade.
“AAPA, our member ports and many allied freight-related organizations worked tirelessly to enlighten lawmakers on the importance of funding freight projects in advance of this bill. We believe our collective efforts resulted in the favorable freight provisions we now see in the final bill language that Congress will act upon in the coming days,” he added.