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American ShipperIntermodalShipping

Omnibus spending bill benefits ports, AAPA says

The sweeping $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package signed by President Trump Friday, which contains funding for various landside and waterside projects, tripled the budget for the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

   The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said the omnibus spending legislation approved Friday by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump contains funding for a number of the association’s top infrastructure and intermodal priorities, both on the landside and the waterside.
   The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package will fund the federal government through Sept. 30, 2018.
   On the landside, AAPA said the legislation triples funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary, multimodal infrastructure grant program to $1.5 billion, up from $500 million in fiscal 2017, with 30 percent dedicated to rural communities to reflect the President’s priority for rural infrastructure.
   The legislation also raises by $1 billion, to $45 billion, funding in fiscal 2018 from the Highway Trust Fund for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHA) surface transportation program.
   “The funding mirrors the FAST Act-authorized levels and provides an extra $2.5 billion in discretionary highway funding, for a total of $3.5 billion for surface transportation (roads, bridges and tunnels) over fiscal 2017 levels,” AAPA said.
   On the waterside, AAPA said the bill includes $6.83 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an increase of $789 million from fiscal 2017.
   The bill funds the Corps’ navigation program at $3 billion, with $123 million for general investigations, $2.085 billion for construction general, and $200 million for the Corps’ regulatory program.
   The Corps’ operations and maintenance (O&M) program, which pays for maintenance dredging in deep-draft harbors and channels, is funded at $3.63 billion, with $1.4 billion coming from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).
   The AAPA noted that this is an increase of $100 million over last year’s appropriation.
   The bill also requires the administration include six new studies and five new construction starts in the Corps’ “work plan,” which details what work it will undertake this year.
   The specific new studies and construction starts have not been named, but AAPA said they could include anywhere from two to four new navigation studies (as opposed to flood control or environmental projects) and two or three starts on new navigation construction.
   AAPA said there was level funding of $100 million for the Port Security Grant Program, and a $15 million increase, to $75 million, for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which provides grants to eligible entities, including ports, for projects that reduce emissions from existing diesel engines.
   The omnibus bill also includes $980 million for the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), an increase of $457 million over fiscal 2017 appropriations.
   The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), which advocates for ports and inland waterways, also praised the omnibus spending measure.
   “Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF)-supported projects will receive full use of estimated annual revenues plus additional balances from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund with at least $399 million to be made available for priority navigation projects in FY2018, a 128 percent increase over the Administration’s request of $175 million,” WCI said. The $175 million was for completion of the Olmsted Lock and Dam project which is expected to begin operating this summer.
   Commenting on the fiscal 2018 bill, WCI President and CEO Michael Toohey said, “WCI is grateful for the bi-partisan action by the House today in passing the record funding levels for the Corps of Engineers to continue its critical work on construction of four priority navigation projects across the inland waterways transportation system.”
   WCI Senior Vice President Debra Calhoun said the council believes there will be enough money provided by the omnibus legislation to also continue work on other projects that are currently under construction, which include: the locks and dams 2-3-4 on the lower Monongahela, the Kentucky Lock Addition and Chickamauga Lock on the Tennessee River.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.

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