Bill would fund freight projects with new shipping fee

Rep. Adam Smith, D.-Wash., has reintroduced legislation that would fund improvements in U.S. freight movement by tacking a 1 percent shipping fee on the total cost of domestic transport.moneybill

In line with the recent recommendations of a bipartisan House panel, the Freight Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2014 (H.R. 3825), would provide competitive grants for projects designed to increase the efficiency and capacity of the national freight mobility network.

“Our nation’s freight transportation system plays a significant role in our ability to grow the economy and compete globally,” said Smith.  “With our nation’s freight expected to double by 2040, it is critical to start making investments in freight and transportation infrastructure now to keep America competitive internationally for years to come.”

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With the establishment of the National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Improvement Program, project planners would work in collaboration with their communities to identify projects of national or regional significance and apply for the grants.

The secretary of transportation would award funds based on the project’s ability to improve freight infrastructure, cost effectiveness, and its economic impact.

“Our multimodal freight transportation system is a national asset that we have failed to appreciate and support. Nowhere is this need more pressing than in the freight system that provides for our nation’s commerce,” said Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Meyer. “Without strategic corridor investments to expand capacity and increase efficiency, U.S. productivity and global competitiveness will suffer, costs will increase and investment will lag.”

All the fees collected through FIRA would go directly to the National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Fund, a dedicated source of funding for freight projects.

“More and more our government and business leaders are agreeing that freight infrastructure is key to economic growth and merits public support,” said Leslie Blakey, executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. “Currently absent from the menu of transportation investment mechanisms is a freight-specific grant program and a dedicated funding source. Congressman Smith’s proposal is truly creative and we applaud his vision.”

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The bill is cosponsored by Democratic Reps. Albio Sires, Steve Cohen, and Janice Hahn all Democrats, and has been sent to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Text of the bill may be found here.