Sen. Carper Stresses Importance of Freight Funding in Long-Term Transportation Bill

Pledges to continue pushing for multi-year strategy that cities, states and businesses need to be competitive and grow our economy

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, participated in a discussion on freight transportation hosted by Third Way, an organization focused on a pragmatic and principled approach to creating public policy, that included representatives from CVS/Caremark, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Transportation and General Electric.

A copy of Sen. Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“I’d like to thank Third Way for organizing this important discussion today as we continue to push for passing and funding a long-term transportation bill.

“While Members of Congress tend to focus on projects in their state or district, transportation investments are really all about boosting America’s global economic competitiveness and improving the quality of life for Americans.

“Transportation projects are about reducing commute times, increasing exports and reducing the cost of imports, and making the private sector more efficient.

“We tend to talk about the direct jobs created by transportation investments, which are important. But the true benefit lies in the impact a world class transportation system has on our nation.

“This includes the improvements to quality of life in cities, towns, and rural areas: less congestion, faster commutes, and better access to the things that are important in a community. And it includes lower costs for businesses that rely on efficient and reliable transportation to get their raw materials and get their goods to market at home and abroad.

“MAP-21 took many steps to reform our transportation programs and refocus them on these national goals. Earlier this year, the Environment and Public Works Committee, where I have the privilege of chairing the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, unanimously passed a bipartisan reauthorization of MAP-21. Our legislation builds on the foundation of MAP-21 to continue making improvements that will best support our nation’s social and economic success and well-being.

“In particular, our proposal creates a new, fully-funded freight program and a new grant program for some of the nation’s biggest and most important projects. Because efficient goods movement is critical to economic growth.

“Our global economic competitors are allocating huge amounts of money in infrastructure development. Meanwhile, here at home, throughout our transportation network there are bottlenecks that slow down goods movement, driving up costs and reducing reliability. Congestion increases costs on businesses and undermines productivity.

“Freight can often take longer to get through metropolitan regions than on long-haul freight corridors. For example, Freight takes 48 hours to get to Chicago from Los Angeles – and another 30 hours just to cross the Chicago metropolitan region.

“That’s why I worked to include a new formula-funded freight program to help target investments toward projects that can best help improve the efficiency and reliability of freight. As you know, freight often requires different types of project investments than passenger travel – a program focused on freight can help to focus on these investments.

So projects will be selected with input from both shippers and freight carriers, based on which projects will provide the best return on investment. 

“This new program includes $2 billion in new funding when fully-implemented. We also allocated $400 million in new funding to the Projects of National or Regional Significance program to offer grants for mega-projects that often have a hard time fitting into the existing formula programs. Making these investments will create jobs at home, boost economic productivity, and increase global competitiveness.

“However, none of these benefits will be realized unless we get serious about passing a fully-funded multi-year transportation bill in this Congress. We haven’t had a long-term transportation plan since 2009, when SAFETEA-LU expired. Instead we’ve been forcing states and cities to lurch from extension to extension 12 times over the last five years.

“This has undermined long-term thinking and capital planning, and is increasing undermining our ability to invest in transformative infrastructure projects as a nation. In the meantime, our global economic competitors are gaining an advantage that is leaving U.S. firms at a disadvantage. This is not how a world-leading nation invests in infrastructure.

“We know what the solutions are to fix the Highway Trust Fund. We just need to get serious about showing some leadership and passing a multi-year funding package this year. And we need your help to do it.

“I am looking forward to the discussion today, and to the work that lies ahead to ensure that we are fulfilling our responsibility to invest in America’s infrastructure.”