AAPA Wants FAST Act Multimodal Cap Lifted

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file photo

By The Maritime Executive 11-29-2018 06:50:43

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee convened a hearing on America's surface transportation needs on Wednesday, with the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) continuing its call for the multimodal cap to be lifted from the Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) program. 

In AAPA’s written testimony, it said that all freight program funding should be 100 percent multimodal. A first step in accomplishing this would be to lift the multimodal cap on the INFRA program. AAPA supports Ranking Members Carper’s legislation (S.3587)  that repeals the multimodal cap on the discretionary grant program created in the  Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act establishes the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program to provide financial assistance - competitive grants, known as INFRA grants - to freight and highway projects.

The FAST Act provided $11 billion in dedicated freight funding over five years. “However, of the $11 billion, only $1.13 billion is multimodal eligible, far below what is needed to build out a 21st century multimodal freight network,” says the AAPA testimony. “Currently, only $200 million of multimodal eligibility remains in the INFRA account.” Earlier this year, the AAPA identified more than $20 billion in multimodal needs for public port authorities alone over the next decade. 

The challenges confronting the freight programs are funding levels and project eligibility. The current freight programs are funded out of the highway trust fund, which means that eligible projects are primarily highway focused. “Highways are important to our freight network, but ports are multimodal facilitators, meaning rail, trucks and ships all need access to ports. One could argue that as our supply chain becomes more sophisticated and there are more inland distribution centers with the advent of ecommerce, multimodal funding will become even more in demand,” says the AAPA testimony.

To address the funding shortfall, AAPA believes the next reauthorization bill will need to address increasing funding needs and identify a multimodal funding source or sources. To that end, AAPA supports raising the gas tax as well as a waybill fee concept and recommends that dedicated funding be approved for the freight programs. 

The FAST Act requires that states complete state freight plans to continue receiving their freight formula funding. “The results have been telling,” says the AAPA. “To date, 95 percent of the states have submitted multimodal state freight plans to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is important because it signals that states recognize the value and have the demand for multimodal projects.”