Photo courtesy of VDOT

Photo courtesy of VDOT.

Shuster: More focus needed on freight corridors

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House of Representatives transportation and infrastructure (T&I) committee, believes significant “focus” needs to be brought back to critical “freight corridors” around the U.S. as work continues on crafting a long-term transportation funding bill.

“The focus needs to be back on the freight corridors of this country; the corridors that move product and people,” he said during a speech this week at the annual Washington Briefing event hosted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) this week.

“If they are not deteriorating, they need expanded capacity,” Shuster stressed. “Because if we look at population and freight in this country over the next 30 years, both will grow significantly.”

He added that T&I committee “has a lot of work to do” to finalize a surface transportation bill, which Shuster said is its top priority.

“We’re working hard to try and come up with a solution on funding and I know Paul Ryan [R-WI and chairman of the House’s Ways & Means committee] is committed to finding a long-term [funding] solution,” Shuster said. “We’re working on it and I’m confident we’ll get a long-term bill because on both sides of aisle, both ends of Capitol Hill, and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, everyone wants a long-term bill.”

He noted, too, that any long-term bill must also include an “intelligent transportation” focused section to accommodate the development of autonomous vehicles.

“We know the roads we build over the next five to 10 years will have cars on them that drive themselves,” Shuster pointed out. “We need to start the conversation now” on how such vehicles might entail change to the designs and materials used to construct roads.

“That’s going to be a critical part of any long-term bill,” he added.

Yet Shuster emphasized that funding a six-year surface transportation remains the biggest challenge.

“It needs to be fiscally responsible; I can’t pass a bill in this Congress if it isn’t paid for,” he noted. “But I think there are solutions out there. We’ve just really got to make sure we spend these dollars back into the critical [freight] corridors and transportation infrastructure; that we rebuild our bridges and add capacity where we need it in this country.”

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