Freight Fund Will Increase Mobility

Washington, DC, Aug 1, 2009 -

Freight mobility is critical to Washington State’s economy.  With two major ports and our state’s position as America’s gateway to the Pacific Rim, our ability to swiftly move goods across our nation and out to global markets is the foundation of job creation and economic growth in the Northwest.  In 2007, Washington State freight systems supported over 1 million jobs and produced nearly $433 billion in income. Freight volumes moving through Washington State are expected to increase significantly in the coming years, with port traffic estimated to increase by almost 40% in the next twenty years.


Yet, Washington State’s current transportation infrastructure does not have the capacity necessary to handle such increased cargo volumes.  The expected tripling in container volume through Pacific Northwest ports will exacerbate already heavy congestion in the Central Puget Sound region.  The lack of capacity to move Washington goods threatens to stifle our economy and kill jobs in our region, let alone cause even worse headaches for motorists navigating our region’s highways.  We simply cannot afford to let Washington farm products languish on docks or idle in parking lots because of inadequate infrastructure to move these goods out to customers around the world.


Our state, local governments, and ports have supported freight mobility, but much more investment is needed to address critical capacity needs.  In order to adequately prepare for increasing cargo volumes, we have a responsibility to make the necessary investments now to keep our industries competitive and allow our economy to grow.  Investing in our transportation and trade infrastructure now will pay dividends for years to come as we can more easily move goods and people through the Northwest.


Investing in freight mobility is equally critical to maintaining America’s competitiveness in the global economy.  Threats to trade and to our ports are everywhere and ever increasing.  Canada has developed a national freight plan that provides for public/private funding of freight corridors, and is heavily investing in its Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert to siphon off trade flows that used to pass through the Pacific Northwest. When it comes to trade, those who can move freight the quickest win, and we must move forward with a similar commitment in order to preserve our place of regional trade prominence.


This year Congress will be working to renew and strengthen our nation’s transportation programs through a bill to reauthorize the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).  The bill contains major set-aside funds for highways and air transit, but there is not an adequate program to coordinate and support freight transportation.  As a result, Washington taxpayers have shouldered much of the burden of funding our nation’s freight systems, when the federal government should be an equal partner in the effort to add capacity, improve efficiency and reduce congestion and delays. 


A federal freight program that will support vital freight mobility projects of national importance across multiple modes of surface transportation is urgently needed.  Such a program would work with states and local governments to invest in critical freight corridors that eliminate chokepoints and increase efficiency.  Increased funding for freight mobility should also be coupled with a national strategic freight plan focused around specific performance outcomes. 


That’s why I teamed up with Washington Congressman Adam Smith to advocate for including a new Freight Fund in the SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization. This fund is critical to the vitality and development of our freight corridors.  By providing access to a dedicated stream of funding for intermodal connections to link ports, highways and rails, we can alleviate congestion and remain competitive with our global counterparts by coordinating the swift movement of goods and people. 


Supporting a national freight fund is a proactive way to support trade and business. It will bolster the job prospects of our maritime workers, freight operators and trade related businesses nationwide. Our resiliency in the global economic demands that we invest in critical economic building blocks, and solid infrastructure leads to more boots on the ground creating goods that can swiftly move across Washington State, across the country, and across the world.  


Congressman Dave Reichert represents Washington’s Eighth Congressional District.


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