The Federal surface transportation authorization, MAP-21, is set to expire on September 30, 2014. The authorizing Committees of the Senate and House have expressed intent to wirte and move the successor authorizing bill to MAP-21. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee convened a Special Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation, comprised of nationwide transportation stakeholders from the public and private secotrs, to make recommendations to the Committee for inclusion into the next authorization bill. SCAG, through its membership in the Coalition of America's Gateways & Trade Corridors and working with California members on the Panel supported its efforts, and staff recommends among its legislative principles the support of Panel recommendations to Congress that it:
Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight Projects of National and Regional Significance (PNRS): Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight PNRS through a competitive grant process and establish clear benchmarks for project selection;
Establish a national, multimodal freight policy and network: As called for in Panel Member Rep. Sires’ (D-NJ) MOVE Freight Act of 2013 (H.R. 974), freight policy and planning should incorporate the many modes of transportation that move goods;
Ensure robust public investment in all modes: Freight does not move on highways alone – where public benefit is derived, public investment must be made. Further, private investment should be encouraged when possible and appropriate; and
Explore additional funding mechanisms: Sustainable freight revenue sources should be identified and evaluated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Congress prior to the next surface transportation authorization.
SCAG concurs with the panel’s conclusion that a broad, multimodal perspective is required for the freight transportation system. As such, the National Freight Network should be expanded to comprise roadways, freight rail, navigable waterways, inland ports, seaports, land ports of entry, freight intermodal connectors, and airports. Further, it is in the nation’s economic interest that the Primary Freight Network (PFN) should be increased beyond the maximum of 27,000 centerline miles to accommodate a multimodal network. MAP-21 provides that the PFN be updated and submitted to Congress every 10 years. However SCAG supports renewal of the network every 5 years to appropriately support an expanded multimodal freight network.
In addition to the recommendations of the Panel, we recommend to support full restoration into the successor surface transportation authorization bill, the $2B per year funding of the National Freight Program, which was established by MAP-21 to distribute these funds to states for the purpose of improving the flow of goods throughout the nation. This vital funding authorization was removed from MAP-21 in conference committee; restoring it into the next authorization bill should remain a top priority for the next authorization bill.
In addition to freight related issues, the federal Highway Trust Fund is not sustainable under the present financing mechanism. SCAG supports all reasonable and fiscally prudent financing options to address the pending insolvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has concluded that, beginning in fiscal year 2015, will have insufficient resources to meet all of its obligations which will result in steadily accumulating shortfalls. According to CBO, since 2008 the Congress has transferred over $41B from the general fund to the HTF to keep it solvent.
Staff recommends SCAG support all reasonable solutions to provide stable, sufficient funding to address HTF solvency. SCAG’s 2012-2035 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Committees Strategy assumes that additional 15 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax imposed by the state and federal government starting in 2017 through 2024 and an estimated $0.05 per mile (in 2011 dollars) is assumed starting in 2025 to replace existing gas tax revenues.