On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Transportation subcommittee held a hearing on the role of U.S. ports, titled “Keeping Goods Moving.” Recently, the west coast ports have experienced major backups. These delays and their economic impact could be a glimpse of things to come if we fail to modernize our freight transportation network to meet growing demands.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chairman of the subcommittee, opened the hearing saying “To grow the economy and create new jobs, we need an efficient and reliable intermodal transportation network.” The testimony of representatives from BNSF, Cargill, the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC), and infrastructure consulting firm Moffatt and Nichol, demonstrated the need for a strong intermodal transportation system that works together to move goods along the supply chain.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), ranking member of the subcommittee, commented that “No region is an island” as he reiterated the importance of investing in infrastructure that effectively moves freight. During the testimony, Mr. John Greuling, representing the CAGTC pointed to how much more other countries, such as China and Canada, are investing in their transportation networks.
The subcommittee’s exploration of this topic demonstrates the growing understanding that our infrastructure works as a system whose condition has huge implications for the nation’s economy. ASCE’s Failure to Act economic study on Airports, Inland Waterways and Marine Ports found that with a $15.8 billion investment per year until 2020, the U.S. can protect $270 billion in U.S. exports, $687 billion in GDP and 738,000 jobs annually.
Congress should identify additional ways that freight mobility investments can be prioritized and funded to ensure that America’s economy can compete in the global marketplace. A fix to the Highway Trust Fund and increased investment levels for our nation’s transportation system would go a long way towards achieving this goal.