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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Three trade groups laud president's freight, TIGER funding proposals

American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) leaders yesterday commended the proposals by President Barack Obama and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to increase federal funding for transportation infrastructure, including needed repairs and upgrades at the nation's seaports.

On Wednesday, Obama unveiled a four-year, $302 billion transportation reauthorization plan that includes the following provisions:
• a new $10 billion multi-modal freight grant program for rail, highway and port projects;
• a permanent authorization of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program and a more than doubling of TIGER funding to $5 billion over the four years, including $600 million for the sixth round of funding;
• a $4 billion allocation to attract private investment in transportation infrastructure, including through the existing Transportation Investment Financing and Innovation Act program;
• dedicated funding totaling $19 billion for rail programs; and
• a $72 billion allocation to improve transit systems and expand transportation options.

Also on Wednesday, Camp proposed dedicating $126.5 billion to the Highway Trust Fund as part of a broad tax reform package to fully fund highway and infrastructure investments for eight years.

"We’re extremely pleased to see the heightened bipartisan recognition that the efficient movement of goods, including trade through seaports and connecting infrastructure, must be a priority at the federal level to enhance U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace," said AAPA President Kurt Nagle in a press release.

Building America’s Future (BAF) officials also lauded the Highway Trust fund proposal and renewed TIGER funding. Since 2009, the TIGER program has awarded $3.5 billion in grants to 270 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

"The TIGER grant program has been wildly successful and I am thrilled to see President Obama put forth a plan to refresh the competitive grant program with a new $600 million round of funding," said BAF Co-Chair and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release.

Added BAF Co-Chairman and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: “The Highway Trust Fund is on track to go bankrupt this summer and if we want to modernize our country’s roads, bridges and transit systems, we need a combination of urgent action and a long-term plan along the lines of what the President is outlining."

Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) officials applauded the funding proposals, too, including the multi-modal freight grant program. The coalition long has advocated for a freight-specific grant program that awards funding through the use of merit-based criteria that identifies and prioritizes projects with a demonstrable contribution to national freight efficiency, they said in a press release.

"Accelerating ways to reduce truck traffic and ensure goods to market both locally and nationally would result in eliminating lost productivity time and wasted fuel," said CAGTC Chair Sharon Neely, the deputy executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments. "A multi-modal, freight-specific grant program does not just invest in our transportation infrastructure, it invests in American businesses, creates jobs and facilitates global trade."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/28/2014