AAPA Reminds Congress to Consider WRDA Agreement
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has responded to the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation being marked up this week by committees in both chambers of Congress, saying it is a positive step, but reminding that it’s critical that WRDA legislation includes the details of a historic agreement reached among the nation’s major ports that provides equity and fairness regarding the allocation of the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT).
The HMT is a crucial funding source that continues to enable national economic growth and keep U.S. ports viable in the global marketplace, says AAPA.
Decades of partially appropriating the HMT collections left navigation channels across the country with depth and width restrictions, requiring ships to move freight inefficiently. This inefficiency has resulted in increased transportation costs that affect U.S. exports competitiveness in the global marketplace and increases the cost of imports to U.S. consumers. Permanent full use of annual HMT collections in the future years is estimated to enable channels to be restored to proper maintenance levels for safe and efficient freight movement.
“With a quarter of the nation’s GDP and more than 23 million American jobs dependent on well-maintained ports, we’re hopeful that this week’s markup of WRDA in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will result in legislation that guarantees full use of the HMT by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said the AAPA in a statement.
Last week, the AAPA released its State of Freight III – Rail Access and Port Multimodal Funding Needs report which identifies more than $20 billion in projected multimodal port and rail access needs in the next decade. In addition, one-third of ports have identified pressing rail project needs that cost more than $50 million, 43 percent said better rail access would add more than 25 percent throughput capacity through their ports, and 90 percent said better rail access would help meet these growing demands and secure new cargo.
In late March, the FY2018 Omnibus provided $1.5 billion for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, recently renamed the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program. Funding for this program is triple the amount Congress provided in FY2017. There is currently $65 million in funding for the new Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program, and the omnibus bill provided $592.5 million in additional CRISI funding. In addition, the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program is authorized at $900 million for FY2018.