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American Shipper

Trade organizations voice support for Trump’s infrastructure plan

President Donald Trump’s push for Congress to pass a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments has gained strong support from various trade organizations.

   Trade organizations representing seaport authorities, truckers and soybean farmers have all weighed in on President Donald Trump’s comments during this week’s State of the Union speech by saying they support his commitment to strengthening America’s infrastructure.
   In the speech, Trump called on Congress to pass an infrastructure bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments and streamlines permitting for major capital projects.
   Among the organizations praising the comments were the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the American Soybean Association (ASA).
   “AAPA is looking forward with great anticipation to an infrastructure package this year that focuses on America’s transportation investment needs, particularly for freight movement,” AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle said. “We’re pleased to hear the president is recommending a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package. It’s reassuring to see that the president recognizes the importance of investing in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
   “We’re particularly pleased the president focused on transportation infrastructure in his State of the Union speech, which helps draw further attention to the value that a 21st century transportation system, and by extension, ports, provides the nation,” Nagle added. “His speech also reinforces what AAPA is stressing to both the Administration and Congress… that efficient waterside and landside connections to ports must be a top priority in any broad federal infrastructure package that we’re optimistic will be advanced this year.”
   ASA president John Heisdorffer, a soybean farmer from Iowa, said the president’s commitment “addresses a priority that is long overdue.”
   “America’s transportation network is U.S. agriculture’s competitive advantage for reaching world markets at less cost than other exporting countries,” he said, adding that “the emphasis the president placed on investing in rural areas, and to reduce the time required to obtain federal permits for new projects, is welcome news for U.S. soybean farmers.”
   Acting OOIDA President Todd Spencer, however, said he heard good and bad in the president’s comments, and that although his organization welcomes Trump’s call for infrastructure spending, professional truckers are concerned by the administration’s reliance on private investment to achieve the $1.5 trillion in funding.
   OOIDA has said it believes the most efficient way to raise funds is with diesel and gasoline fuel taxes, as opposed to looking to private-public partnerships, the sale or lease of existing roads, or efforts to convert roads into tolled roads.
   “If elected officials think a fuel tax increase would be unpopular, wait until Americans encounter more and higher tolling,” Spencer said. “An investment of $1.5 trillion in infrastructure will help dramatically improve our roads, while spurring economic growth. But increased tolling is not the way to pay for it. Instead, the White House and Congress should find the courage to increase federal fuel taxes, which are a significantly more reliable and efficient source of revenue than tolling.”
   In addition to trade organizations, government officials have also called on their fellow lawmakers to ensure that any federal infrastructure package include resources for America’s ports.
   “Our national supply chain begins at ports,” the 36 members of the bipartisan Congressional Ports Opportunity, Renewal, Trade, and Security (PORTS) Caucus wrote in a letter addressed to party leaders in the House of Representatives and the House’s transportation and infrastructure committee. “It is paramount that we provide our ports with the resources they need to both maintain and improve their infrastructure and the national freight network.”
   In the letter, the PORTS Caucus members point out that the AAPA has identified about $70 billion in infrastructure needs for federal investment at U.S. seaports. These investments, both on land and in the water, can help alleviate congestion in crowded metropolitan areas, hasten the adoption of low or zero-emissions freight technology, and make U.S. seaports more competitive, they wrote.

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