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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Freight-movement roundtable addressed federal transportation program needs

On Tuesday, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) hosted a roundtable discussion that addressed the importance of investing in freight-movement projects as part of a 21st century transportation network.

Carper and Barrasso are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure; while Blumenthal and Blunt are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

A number of public- and private-sector transportation industry constituents joined the senators to discuss how federal transportation programs can help make freight transportation more efficient, reliable and affordable. Participants included BNSF Railway Co. Vice President of Network Strategy Dean Wise, Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino, Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matthew Garrett, Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) Chairman Mort Downey, UPS VP of Global Public Affairs Pat Thomas, and Dow Chemical Corp. VP of Government Affairs and Public Policy Kevin Kolevar.

The U.S. transportation system moves more than 52 million tons of goods worth about $46 billion each day. Efficient, reliable and affordable freight movement is important to nearly every type of business in the nation, said Carper in a press release.

"My Senate colleagues and I had a very productive discussion with the users of the freight network to better understand how we can help them to grow, create jobs and contribute to our economic success," he said. "The expert input we collected will be invaluable to me and my colleagues in Congress as we work to find a bipartisan agreement on how to craft and pay for transportation legislation that invests in freight projects with a strong return on investment."

Existing programs must be "robustly funded and bolstered" by a new federal freight-specific competitive grant program that will provide funds for projects of national and regional significance, said CAGTC's Downey, who also serves as vice chairman of the U.S. DOT’s National Freight Advisory Committee and is a former U.S. deputy transportation secretary.

"To maximize the effectiveness of federal investment, freight project delivery should be harmonized; each project is unique and necessitates planning and environmental delivery approaches matching the flexibility given to projects under MAP-21," he said. "Further leveraging investments, these approaches must recognize the unique qualities of public-private projects that service freight needs.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/2/2014