Ports want bigger infrastructure funding share
Congress should place emphasis on alleviating freight congestion in surface transportation funding, Kurt Nagle, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Port Authorities told Congress Tuesday.
The group wants a bigger share of funds for ports than was awarded under the so-called TIGER and TIGER II grant programs. (TIGER is an acronym for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.)
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Nagle urged 'implementation of a national freight policy which coordinates with state freight transportation agencies to ensure that implementation and national freight connectivity and capacity goals are met.'
He said AAPA recommended a 'formula-driven state administered freight program complimented by a federal merit-based investment component to address projects and corridors of national and regional economic significance be included' in transportation reauthorization legislation.
Nagle noted this kind of merit-based concept was first introduced as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in 2005 and was known as the 'Projects of National and Regional Significance Program.'
'The program was entirely earmarked and was never implemented as intended. Port authorities should be eligible to apply directly for project funds through the aforementioned federal and state freight programs,' he said.
The port group wants a National Infrastructure Investments (NII) -style program, similar to the TIGER and TIGER II programs, to be authorized.
Nagle said a minimum of 25 percent of the available funding should be dedicated to port-related infrastructure needs, adding 'port infrastructure projects, including those that improve landside connections to seaports, are prime candidates for programs like the NII.'
Ports received a much smaller share of funding under the TIGER programs ' about 8 percent of the $1.5 billion awarded under TIGER I and about 17 percent of the $600 million awarded under TIGER II, said an AAPA spokesman.
'Efficient seaports are truly in the federal interest and are critical to U.S. export expansion, international commerce and the global competitiveness of the U.S. economy,' Nagle said.
He highlighted to the House subcommittee the need for improvements to roads and railroads that converge at ports, noting they often are on the same grade, resulting in congestion, delays, and air pollution from idling vehicles.
Roads are often in disrepair and 'not fit for the volume of freight traffic they must endure,' he said.
Investments in freight rail near ports could improve safety, efficiency, the environment, and 'encourage competitive rail access to seaports. The federal surface transportation program should provide tax credit incentives for main-line and short-line railroads to invest in port access.'
Nagle also called for legislation to help improve and develop new 'marine highway' services, including harbor maintenance tax exemptions and incentives to shippers to use short-sea transport because it is 'greener.'
Ships moving cargo between U.S. ports must be built in the United States, but Nagle said 'marine highway development could also benefit from a reassessment of federal shipbuilding programs with a focus on how they could support marine highway development.' ' Chris Dupin