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Buttigieg outlines potential truck parking funding opportunities

DOT secretary at Senate hearing also vows to consider new West Coast container terminal

Lack of truck parking highlighted at Senate hearing. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spotlighted on Capitol Hill various federal funding avenues that the trucking industry could take to expand parking capacity for long-haul truckers.

Testifying in response to Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., who told of recent weather that forced trucks to park along the emergency lanes of Interstate 80 due to a lack of adequate parking, Buttigieg told lawmakers on Wednesday he was “very concerned” about the truck parking problem.

“If you talk with any truck driver, it’s not only an issue of convenience, it’s an issue of safety,” Buttigieg emphasized at the Senate Environment and Public Works committee hearing. “And I might add, with the idling that goes on, it’s even an issue of emissions.”

While a grant program dedicated specifically for truck parking was initially included in — but then negotiated out of — the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed in November by President Joe Biden, Buttigieg underscored several programs that were expanded in the bill through which states could access funds for expanding truck parking:

  • Surface transportation block grant program.
  • National highway freight program.
  • Highway safety improvement program.
  • National highway performance program.
  • Congestion mitigation and air quality improvement program.

In addition, Buttigieg didn’t think it “unreasonable” to look into whether a carbon reduction program or a grant program for reducing truck idling at port facilities, both listed under the law’s climate change title, might be relevant for trucking parking as well.

“We’re hearing about [this problem] with truck drivers everywhere we go, and I’d welcome an opportunity to work with you to make sure that the funding and the authorities available in the law are actually being used to alleviate that problem,” he told Lummis.

Watch: Next steps for truck parking (2/22)

Buttigieg also promised to look into the status of the latest Jason’s Law truck parking report, mandated by federal law, which Lummis was told had been completed but not yet published.

West Coast container competitor

During the hearing, Buttigieg was lobbied by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., on supporting a proposed $1 billion container terminal at the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, on the site of a proposed LNG export facility that ultimately failed to get built.

Once fully operational, the port and its project partner, Northpoint Development, estimate the container terminal will handle 1 million forty-foot containers (2 million twenty-foot equivalent units) — boosting U.S. West Coast container capacity by close to 10%. The port expects to finalize a design agreement within the next month.

Merkley asserted that the project is a “perfect poster child” for the infrastructure law’s new $5 billion megaprojects grant program for projects likely to generate national or regional economic benefits.

“It meets every one of the five stipulations for the program,” he told Buttigieg. “I’m asking for you and your team to take a close look. When I think about the vision of doing things that have regional and national significance on our transportation system, on our economy, this is it.”

Buttigieg told Merkley he was interested “to discuss anything that enhances supply chain capacity in this country.” 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.