Photo courtesy of VDOT

Congressional bill seeks “freight fee” to fund infrastructure

Jan. 13, 2014

A bill introduced by Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) hopes to establish a special “freight fee” to generate more revenues in order to pay transportation infrastructure needs.

Last Friday Rep. Smith re-introduced H.R. 3825, dubbed the Freight Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2014 or FIRA bill, to fund what he calls “competitive grants” through a user fee on the shipment of freight cargo within the U.S.; a fee totaling 1% of the total cost of transport.

All of that money would then go directly to the National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Fund, he said, which would be managed by  the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). That fund would then provide competitive grants to states and designated entities to improve the efficiency and capacity of freight networks, with the Secretary of Transportation awarding funds based on the project’s ability to improve freight infrastructure, cost effectiveness, and its economic impact. 

“Our nation’s freight transportation system plays a significant role in our ability to grow the economy and compete globally,” said Rep. Smith in a statement. “With our nation’s freight expected to double by 2040, it is critical to start making investments in freight and transportation infrastructure now to keep America competitive internationally for years to come.”

For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated in its latest infrastructure report card  that it would take an additional $1.66 trillion to bring the U.S. transportation system as a whole up to an acceptable level – a figure that balloons to $2.75 trillion by 2020 if nothing is done.

Several freight industry notables espoused support for Congressman Smith’s proposed fee, including Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Meyer.

“Without strategic corridor investments to expand capacity and increase efficiency, U.S. productivity and global competitiveness will suffer, costs will increase and investment will lag,” Meyer noted in a statement. “We applaud Congressman Smith’s efforts to make this vision of strategic freight mobility a reality.”

“More and more, our government and business leaders are agreeing that freight infrastructure is key to economic growth and merits public support,” added Leslie Blakey, executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. “Currently absent from the menu of transportation investment mechanisms is a freight-specific grant program and a dedicated funding source. Congressman Smith’s proposal is truly creative and we applaud his vision.”

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