Congressman Alan Lowenthal Introduces Bill to Strengthen Nation's Deteriorating Freight Infrastructure System

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) has introduced a bill, H.R. 1308, Economy in Motion: The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act, in an effort to strengthen the nation’s economic competitiveness. This bipartisan legislation seeks to establish a dedicated revenue source to invest in rebuilding America’s crumbling freight infrastructure.

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“Goods movement is one of the most powerful economic engines in our nation. And yet, the infrastructure this engine depends on is crumbling around us. We have the ability to fix it, make it stronger, and make it better, while also taking action to address the negative impacts of goods movement on our communities,” Congressman Lowenthal said in a statement.

The bill would raise approximately $8 billion a year, according to the release, that would be used for freight-related infrastructure projections nationwide, with a focus on the projects that help relieve bottlenecks within the freight transportation system.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) noted that the neglect of our bridges and roadways is threatening our quality of life. As an original cosponsor of the bill, he said in a statement, “We cannot allow the transport of consumer goods, agricultural products, and industrial equipment to be taken for granted. I am happy to be cosponsoring this farsighted legislation to keep our economy in motion and thus Americans’ livelihoods sustained well into the future.”

According to the release, the bill would establish the Freight Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund through funding from a national one percent waybill fee on the transportation cost of goods.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia commented on our deteriorating 710 freeway in a statement, saying, “The City and Port of Long Beach need funding to improve the Long Beach Freeway’s (I-710) increasing traffic volumes, aging infrastructure, and serious congestion. H.R. 1308 will provide an ongoing source of funding which will allow us to implement freight specific solutions, while delivering air quality benefits to the greater Long Beach community.”

The bill will create two grant programs in order to invest the funds. The first is a formula system that would give each state yearly funds based on their amount of existing freight infrastructure. States must develop comprehensive State Freight Plans and also have, or form, State Freight Advisory Committees under MAP-21, the federal highway authorization enacted in 2012. The second, a competitive grant program that would be open to all local, regional and state governments.

"Our port, and all U.S. ports, need to make major investments to remain competitive,” Port of Long Beach CEO Jon Slangerup said in a statement. “So the Port of Long Beach is supportive of innovative efforts to assist in funding freight and transportation projects. H.R. 1308 is a step in the right direction and we look forward to working with Congressman Lowenthal and others to address solutions to meet other national infrastructure needs."

The latest report card on America’s infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers, rated the nation’s bridges and rail system with a C+, our ports with a C and our roads with a D. The overall grade for the entirety of our system was a D+. A September 2014 infrastructure report by the National Association of Manufacturers, stated, “New funding will help the United States catch up from a well-documented backlog of deferred infrastructure projects that have accumulated over the past 10 years, including maintenance, repair, and new capacity. Many of the critical problems already are identified. It is urgent to take immediate action on long-standing and stalled projects.”

Among a coalition of supporters, including government agencies, municipalities, trade groups and private industry, Dave Cortese, Chair of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Leslie Blake, President and Executive Director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors and Arthur T. Leahy, CEO of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, have all lauded the vitality of Lowenthal’s proposed bill as a necessity

According to the release, H.R. 1308 was introduced on March 4 with original cosponsors Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14). Representative Mark Takano (CA-41) is also a cosponsor.

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