Shuster Releases U.S. Draft Infrastructure Plan

By The Maritime Executive 07-26-2018 12:03:50

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has released a legislative discussion draft outlining his vision for U.S. infrastructure, including surface and water transportation programs.

The plan calls for billions of dollars in federal investment and trillions in appropriations for projects of national significance. Funding would come, at least partial funding, from a 15-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and a 20-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel. 

“The 2016 presidential campaign shined a spotlight on America’s crumbling infrastructure,” said Shuster. “Since election day, the American people have waited for action by their federal elected representatives, and I am just as frustrated as they are that we have yet to seriously consider a responsible, thoughtful proposal. That is why I have released  a discussion draft that reflects input from Members on both sides of the aisle, as well as a broad group of infrastructure stakeholders interested in building a 21st century infrastructure for our country.

The draft is designed to spark discussion he said.“Over the coming weeks and months, I look forward to additional input from my Republican and Democratic colleagues in order to prepare a bill for congressional consideration.”

Shuster’s proposal includes significant improvements to both the surface transportation system linking to ports and waterside funding needed to maintain America’s harbors. It outlines ideas on how to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent, authorizes a national infrastructure investment program similar to TIGER/BUILD, and extends FAST Act freight programs for a year – all of which are important to U.S. ports. The proposed legislation also includes a mechanism to allow revenue deposited in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which funds maintenance of federal navigation channels into U.S. ports, to be fully appropriated and expended each year.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has voiced its support. President and CEO Kurt Nagle said, “Two important priorities AAPA would look to have addressed in any infrastructure legislation would be to raise the multi-modal cap on the FAST Act funds and broaden the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) provision to tie it to the recent port industry agreement.”

This past spring, AAPA’s U.S. member ports approved a long-term solution for HMT spending to achieve what it believes is a fair and equitable distribution formula for HMT revenues. Nagle noted that adoption of AAPA’s distribution formula “would fix the inequities in our current system while addressing the health and well-being of our seaport water highways that are critical for delivering goods and services to all Americans.” 

The AAPA projects the seaport industry will require about $66 billion in infrastructure investments over the next decade to ensure U.S. job creation, economic growth and tax fairness. This includes nearly $34 billion for waterside projects, like deep-draft dredging of harbors and channels, and about $32 billion for landside projects, like road and rail connectors to ports.

Cargo activities at America’s seaports are significant drivers of the U.S. economy, supporting more than 23 million American jobs and generating over $320 billion in annual federal, state and local taxes. All but one percent of the nation’s overseas trade moves through its maritime facilities, and U.S. seaport cargo activities account for more than one-quarter of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.