The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) congratulates the U.S. Senate for passing today the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), an historic $1 trillion bill, $567.4 billion of which is dedicated to improving our nation’s transportation systems. Up to $77.9 billion of that funding is available to address varying freight system needs across the United States. Of note, IIJA’s funding for freight formula and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) programs is 40 percent above the 2015 FAST Act levels.
While echoing support for many of the programs and freight policies long championed by CAGTC since its formation 20 years ago, the IIJA begins to make up for years of underinvestment and to address growing freight system demands. The upper chamber’s efforts are occurring at a critical time, given that freight transport is projected to increase 2.6-fold by 2050. If passed into law, the investments provided by the IIJA are projected to add approximately two million jobs annually to the U.S. economy.
“We commend the diligent and bipartisan work by Members of the Senate to deliver an investment plan that will serve our nation over the next five years,” stated CAGTC Executive Director Elaine Nessle. “The legislation prioritizes our nation’s economic competitiveness in the global marketplace by increasing the level of investment in multimodal freight infrastructure and strengthening the policy and programming that guides those investments. In response to CAGTC’s long-held advocacy, the proposal establishes an Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy (Freight Office) within the U.S. Department of Transportation to guide national multimodal freight planning and better inform system-wide programming. The Freight Office will oversee freight planning activities at the national and state level and manage the administration of multimodal grant programs, including INFRA, RAISE/TIGER/BUILD, and the new megaprojects program, reviewing applications with an eye toward increasing freight system performance, safety, and reliability. Each program is essential to funding large-scale goods movement infrastructure projects, which are difficult to fund through traditional distribution methods such as formula programs.”
The IIJA contains several programs that are freight-specific as well as programs that include freight investment among the program’s objectives and eligibilities. These programs include:
Multimodal freight grant programs: given the complex nature of many freight projects, robust competitive grant funding has been a longstanding priority for CAGTC. The IIJA responds to that priority by providing an unprecedented $20.5 billion over five years for three major multimodal discretionary programs. The INFRA grant program is funded at $8 billion over five years. Whereas the FAST Act limited funding for non-highway freight projects to approximately 11 percent of total funding, the IIJA increases the amount of multimodal eligible funding to 30 percent annually. While CAGTC has advocated for elimination of this cap, tripling the amount of funding available for multimodal freight projects is noteworthy.
“The INFRA program has invested millions of dollars in untangling critical freight and passenger rail systems in northeastern Illinois,” said Erin Aleman, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). “The country’s movement of goods relies on these nationally significant projects in our region and keeps our economy moving.”
Freight formula program: recognizing that each state’s freight needs vary in size, CAGTC supports federal programs seeking to address these needs through a combination of funding distribution methods. While discretionary programs are critical in supporting large, multijurisdictional projects, the National Highway Freight (freight formula) Program offers necessary additional resources to address statewide freight projects. The Act provides increased funding levels for the freight formula program and raises the amount available to multimodal projects from 10 percent annually to 30 percent, advancing state freight investment and planning efforts.
“The state of Tennessee strongly supports efforts regarding the importance of freight in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, specifically the increased funding for the freight formula program to address statewide freight projects,” said Dan Pallme, Director of Freight & Logistics, Tennessee Department of Transportation. “Freight is such an important aspect to many states with regards to economic development, industry, jobs, equity and safety. Understanding the movements of freight is critical to long-term success for not only our state but also regional and national efforts. More effective collecting, monitoring, and planning for growth in freight traffic through efforts like these, without slowing down industry, is critical to long-term success for all states.”
Port Investment Program: the bill includes $2.25 billion over five years, or $450 million annually, for the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), which provides grants to improve facilities, operations, and intermodal connections near or within seaports, inland ports, and Great Lakes ports. The program remains separate from surface transportation authorizations within the IIJA, funded through multi-year direct appropriations from the General Fund at significantly increased levels to enhance maritime and intermodal transportation infrastructure.
“Port Tampa Bay is pleased to see the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act pass through the Senate. This bill supports our nation’s seaports and port-related infrastructure improvements and would invest in critical freight programs. This legislation would create the flexibility to invest in projects that have the capacity to create more jobs and increase long-term economic growth, which will impact entire regions,” explained Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay President & CEO.
Bridge Funding: the legislation provides $40 billion over five years for bridge improvement projects through new competitive and formula funding programs. Many bridges across the country are in poor condition, resulting weight restrictions or closures strain freight movement by increasing travel times and congestion. Investments in bridge rehabilitation and replacement projects, particularly on designated Interstate and U.S. highway bridges, will improve national and regional freight efficiency as well as roadway safety.
“The question of whether to build a new bridge over the Mississippi River at Memphis isn’t one of want but of need,” said Bobby White, Chief Public Policy Officer for the Greater Memphis Chamber. “Memphis is ‘America’s Distribution Center’ and is home to the world’s busiest cargo airport, to the nation’s third-busiest trucking corridor, and to homegrown Fortune 500 shipping company FedEx. Memphis moves packages anywhere and everywhere, the world over. But despite Memphis’ global value, the city only has two, aging bridges: the 48-year-old I-40 bridge and the 72-year-old I-55 bridge. The supply chains of the nation and the world cannot afford to have Memphis operating with a single bridge for an extended period, as it had to do for more than two months after a critical fracture was discovered in an I-40 bridge truss in May. To deliver the reliability citizens need, our nation must make America’s River Crossing a priority.”
Highway/ Rail Grade Crossing and Separation Funds: there are over 220,000 public and private grade crossings in the U.S., some of which raise safety and congestion concerns in impacted communities. The IIJA creates a new grant program for highway-rail grade crossing improvement projects, providing targeted funding for projects that support passenger and freight mobility, efficiency, and safety.
“We applaud the unprecedented augmentation in funding provided for nationally and regionally significant freight infrastructure projects, particularly as the pandemic has revealed the importance of a robust supply chain. Goods often must move between truck, train and ship and we also appreciate the increased flexibility to direct funding to the most meritorious highway, rail and port projects,” said Paul Hubler, Chairman of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors and Director of Government and Community Relations for the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, which is overseeing the Alameda Corridor-East rail-roadway program and a highway improvement project at the worst truck choke point in California. “The strong funding support proposed for railway-highway crossing separations and improvements in particular could help fund projects to eliminate hazards which have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries at crossings in eastern Los Angeles County.”
CAGTC looks forward to working with the House of Representatives and the Administration to ensure that the IIJA is signed into law.