Infrastructure’s unsolved riddle

By Jeff Berman · July 23, 2010

In case you missed it, a trio of like-minded Senators rolled out some very interesting “FREIGHT”-focused legislation yesterday.

LM reported on this yesterday, noting that this ambitious legislation puts freight—and goods movement—as a real driver of economic change and gains should this legislation one day be enacted into law or rolled into a larger bill (SAFETEA-LU, the next phase, perhaps?

Among the items the bill proposes are:

  • to reduce delays of goods and commodities entering into and out of intermodal connectors that serve international points of entry on an annual basis;
  • increase travel time reliability on major freight corridors that connect major population centers with freight generators and   international gateways on an annual basis;
  • reduce the number of transportation-related fatalities by 10 percent by   2015;
  • reduce national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030; and
    reduce freight transportation-related air, water, and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems and communities on an annual basis.

These are all very good ideas that could, in fact, go a long way in improving the economy and having freight play a key role in the process…..if it were not only for one thing—-money—and lots of it.

This bill, like the six-year, $450 billion surface transportation reauthorization penned by Congressman James L. Oberstar last year, simply does not have a tangible way of getting the resources it needs to get off the ground and make a difference.

That much was obvious, given the absence of a dollar figure or estimate in yesterday’s bill. Coalition of America’s Gateways Executive Director Leslie Blakey made it clear on a conference call yesterday that the bill’s absence of funding was not by accident.

She said the matter of funding needs to be overseen by the Senate Finance Committee, adding that from a cost perspective this bill may be better off as an individual effort as opposed to a bigger bill.

What’s more, she pointed out that the “cards are stacked” against SAFETEA-LU truly going anywhere in the short term.

And even though the most obvious remedy for funding—raising a gas tax which has not budged since 1993—is clearly off the table, as per the words of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on more than one occasion, the available remedies out there to fund a bill of this kind are limited to put it mildly.

LaHood recently touted increased tolling revenues, coupled with the gas tax, to serve as the funding engine, but that appears to be a tough sell to the freight transportation community at this point.

With so many great ideas out there to help give freight a seat at the table to make things better on myriad levels, we as a nation need to find a way to pony up to make it reality. But for now the question remains how it should be accomplished.

What is the solution when it comes to transportation funding? Newsroom Notes wants to know.


About the Author

Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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