New Report Finds Flaws in Federal Freight Grant Program
Life in the FASTLANE Offers Bold Recommendations for Improvement
Washington, DC – The “Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies” (FASTLANE) grant program supports highway and intermodal freight projects around the country. It is funded at approximately $800 million annually through 2020.
Today, the Eno Center for Transportation released Life in the FASTLANE: Recommendations for Improving Federal Freight Grants. The report finds that while FASTLANE is a significant step in creating a useful federal freight program, there is ample room for improvement. The competitively-awarded program needs to be structured in a way that can demonstrate its effectiveness and be funded in the long term.
The report recommends that Congress:
- Increase the funding available for FASTLANE grants—or a similar discretionary freight program—to at least $2 billion annually.
- Revise the eligibility standards to allow for all freight projects, including public and private railways, ports, waterways, highways, and intermodal connectors.
- Restrict eligibility to only freight projects.
The report recommends that the U.S. Department of Transportation:
- Exercise greater transparency and explicitly describe its evaluation process, assign weights to criteria, and publish the final results.
- Emphasize leveraging non-federal funds, both public and private, by increasing the weight of this metricso that projects that use fewer federal dollars score better.
- Explicitly disclose how it achieves geographic diversity while keeping the regional equity aspect of the selection process to a minimum.
The movement of freight is of inherent federal interest. Freight by its nature crosses state and national borders, it is enormously important to the U.S. economy, and has wide-ranging implications for jobs. A federal discretionary grant program, when designed correctly, can target limited funds to freight projects that relieve bottlenecks and improve reliability for freight movements across the country.
The report was informed by Eno’s Freight Working Group, a standing advisory group on all matters relating to freight policy. It consists of diverse stakeholders and provides Eno staff with insights, knowledge, feedback, and guidance on how to approach some of the most challenging freight transportation problems of today. To learn more about the working group, visit the webpage here.
To learn more and download the full report, click here.