Funding for freight can be a critical element for the next transportation bill

Funding for freight can be a critical element for the next transportation bill

February 19, 2015  | Paul Lewis

The United States currently lacks a comprehensive national freight policy. Over the past several years, there has been extensive discussion regarding the need to develop a national program of investment in freight and goods movement. Numerous organizations have weighed in on the need for a multimodal federal program for freight investments.

Their conclusions have been strikingly similar: a national, multimodal freight policy could bring substantial benefits to the U.S. economy. One of the most transformational aspects of several consensus-based recommendations includes a discretionary grant program that can target funding to large, transformational investments of regional and national significance. The President’s budget, released in early February, also included a multimodal freight investment program that would distribute $1 billion annually.

While such a program has broad support in Congress and among stakeholders, this recommendation lacks a key component: funding. Several reports have identified possible sources of funds, weighing their advantages and disadvantages, but none have endorsed a specific funding source. If the U.S. is to move forward with a comprehensive national freight policy, the first step must be overcoming the funding barrier.

To tackle the immense problem of finding a funding source with broad appeal across the freight industry, Eno has formed the Freight Funding Working Group. The group brings together numerous freight industry stakeholders and thought leaders to develop a specific proposal for funding a multimodal freight grant program. The goal will be to develop consensus around a specific recommendation for a funding source for a multimodal freight investment program at the federal level.

The group’s co-chairs are two prominent, high profile individuals who have the ability to strongly influence Congress and the Administration regarding future funding for freight. Former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman serves as the Republican co-chair for the group, and former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio serves as the Democrat co-chair. The group includes representatives from railroads, trucking, shipping, ports, government, and the research community.

The group has outlined and signed off on a scope of work, and will now begin working on evaluating a myriad of funding mechanisms that can be used to fund a multi-modal freight investment program. This work will be used to inform working group discussions and lead the group to a consensus on the best way to fund freight at the national level.

If you are interested in joining the group, please contact me at plewis@enotrans.org.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eno Center for Transportation.

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