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  December 6th, 2016 | Written by

Investments Needed to Move U.S. Freight Programs Forward

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  • Release of report marks first-year anniversary of FAST Act.
  • AASHTO and AAPA release report: “The State of Freight II - Implementing the FAST Act and Beyond.”
  • A well-functioning freight transportation system is the essential building block for a thriving economy.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) are today jointly releasing a national freight infrastructure report, “The State of Freight II—Implementing the FAST Act and Beyond,” marking the one-year anniversary of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

The two organizations agree that a well-functioning freight transportation system is the essential building block for a thriving economy. The report demonstrates that while states are making progress, improvements to critical freight infrastructure have not kept pace with current and future demands. The report includes a number of key recommendations to leverage private-sector investment and move lawmakers to provide additional and ongoing funding resources outside of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

“Transportation matters more today than ever before, and this report serves as a blueprint for state DOTs, Congress and the new administration in Washington, D.C. to address the critical freight infrastructure needs of our nation,” said AASHTO president and Maine DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “One of my top priorities as AASHTO president is to focus on intermodal freight capacity constraints and work collectively to improve the vital connections between rail, ports, intermodal facilities, and the national surface transportation system necessary to meet the projected demand in population growth and freight movement over the coming decades.”

Last year, AAPA released the results of its first ‘The State of Freight’ survey. The study identified $29 billion in seaport landside transportation infrastructure investment needs over the next decade to keep pace with rising freight volumes and increasing population density in metropolitan areas. “This report is the second step in that process,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s President and CEO, “presenting a comprehensive national overview of where states are collectively in developing state freight plans, one year after the FAST Act was passed.”

Compiling and analyzing results from a combined AASHTO-AAPA survey completed in November 2016, The State of Freight II analyzes how states fund freight-specific investments through state-dedicated or discretionary funding, and how these funding sources can potentially work with federal freight investments. The survey found that 71 percent of states have state freight plans that they are actively working to make FAST Act compliant. Fifty-seven percent of states have targeted more than 6,200 freight projects for inclusion in their state freight plans, while 35 percent have identified a combined $259 billion in costs for their state’s freight plan projects.

To help states plan sustainable investments in a national freight network, AAPA and AASHTO recommend having the U.S. Department of Transportation continue providing HTF allocations to states for highway freight projects through the National Highway Freight program and requesting that Congress provide additional funding outside of the HTF to supplement highway formula dollars. The report also advocates moving the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) from discretionary to mandatory spending to enable all the revenues from HMT collections to be used for maintenance of deep draft navigation channels and providing more equity.