Seaports Magazine - Spring 2016 - (Page 37)

» PORTS + POLITICS Surface Transportation System Enables Economic Prosperity By U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) L ast year, Congress passed a fiveyear fully-funded reauthorization of federal highway, transit, and safety programs, known as the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This legislation not only improves the nation's surface transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges, transit systems, and rail transportation network, but it promotes the connectivity of our entire transportation system and fulfills my top priority as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. The FAST Act is the longest reauthorization bill in over a decade. Critically, FAST reforms and strengthens transportation programs while refocusing on national priorities. The long-term nature of the bill provides states and local governments with the certainty and flexibility to undertake major projects that have been on the shelf for decades. What makes this long-term reauthorization different than past legislation is the hallmark of this historic piece of legislation-the newly established freight programs. In 2013, the U.S. transportation system moved more than 20 billion tons of freight. These goods traveled over 6.1 trillion miles and were valued at nearly $18 trillion. These goods travel across a network of roads, bridges, railroads, airports, and waterways. The transportation system links natural resources, manufacturing facilities, and farms to consumers across the nation as well as to the rest of the world. The need to address insufficiencies in the national freight transportation system and enhance how goods travel across the country has been growing over the last couple of decades. I heard about the need for freight system improvements first hand at multiple hearings the Senate EPW Committee held last year. State officials, business owners, and users of the system recognized that it was vital for a long-term reauthorization to address the freight bottlenecks that congest what is ultimately the lifeblood of our economy. In order for goods, resources, and passengers to reach their destinations efficiently and safely, it is essential that this system be seamlessly connected. One hiccup in the system will inevitably ripple through the rest of the network and across the economy. The FAST Act created an automatic state-based formula distribution program and a discretionary program to address larger, regionally-significant freight projects that are in the national interest yet beyond the reach of any one state's resources. The National Freight Program provides, for the first time in history, $6.3 billion in formula funding to states for such projects. The second freight program provides $4.5 billion for a discretionary program to help fund major projects that will have a regional or national impact. Both of these programs highlight the need for investments that will promote the smooth transition of goods between modes of transportation. The FAST Act recognizes the crucial role that intermodal projects play in our economy. The United States is the world's largest importer of containerized goods and world's second-largest exporter of such cargo. In order to maintain such levels of intake and output, proper investment in our ports and the inland connectors is absolutely essential for goods to get to market. Maintaining- and more importantly, improving-these first and last mile connectors will further facilitate commerce and grow the economy. While waterways play a key role in moving goods and resources into, out of and throughout the country, not every state or community has access to a port. This requires that goods and resources be transported along our nation's four million miles of highways and roads, for at least part of the journey. Just look at my home state of Oklahoma, which produces more than $6 billion in exports to more than 25 countries, every year. The state's exported goods must travel through five other states and across 1,300 miles of interstate in order to get to the Port of Long Beach, California, prior to travelling overseas. There is a clear need for cohesion in this extensive, interconnected system of commerce. President Eisenhower fully understood this need for an interconnected system, and I believe that the FAST Act perpetuates his vison. In the words of Eisenhower, the transportation system is in the very name we bear - United States. Without a connected transportation system, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts. The FAST Act will help improve this country as putting America back on the map as a place to do business. ● U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is a U.S. Army Veteran. He is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Senior Member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. SPRING 2016 * WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM 37 http://WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Spring 2016

AAPA Headquarters
From the President’s Desk
Port to Market: Building Infrastructure to Meet Demand
Turning on the Funding Tap
Seaports Maintenance and Modernization
Do Ports Know What’s Coming?
Surface Transportation System Enables Economic Prosperity
Dredged Material Disposal: 5 Ways to Expedite Federal Approval
The Importance of Infrastructure in the Cruise Industry
Index of Advertisers

Seaports Magazine - Spring 2016