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    News in Depth

    Cong. Millender-McDonald Introduces Legislation Proposing System Of Fed'l Funds Fueling Goods Movement Projects of Nat'l Significance

    (Nov. 1, 2003) -- LB area Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald has introduced a bill that proposes to spend $18 billion over six years to facilitate and fund transportation projects of national significance involving the movement of goods.

    Half of the sum would be dispensed via a grant program to be created to facilitate such projects...and the other half would be given to projects that Congress explicitly designates as "projects of national significance"...which in the initial version of the legislation remain "to be supplied."

    The "Goods Movement Act of 2003" (HR 3398, complete text on a link below) was introduced on Oct. 29, 2003 and immediately referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee...on which Congresswoman Millender-McDonald (a Democrat whose district includes roughly 80% of LB and stretches through Carson and beyond) serves as senior member.

    The bill would direct the Secretary of Transportation to establish a "goods movement program," the purposes of which would be:

    (A) to facilitate and support multimodal freight transportation initiatives at the State, regional, and local levels in order to improve freight transportation gateways and mitigate congestion in the area of such gateways;

    (B) to provide capital funding to address infrastructure and freight operational needs at freight transportation corridors and gateways;

    (C) to encourage adoption of new financing strategies to leverage State, local, and private investment in freight transportation gateways; and

    (D) to support military mobilization and readiness.

    Among its discretionary provisions, the bill would empower the Secretary of Transportation to make grants to "assist State and local governmental authorities in financing...the development of corridors...including protecting rights of way through acquisition, construction of dedicated truck and high occupancy vehicle lanes and other non-vehicular capital improvements that the Secretary may decide would result in mitigating congestion in such corridors."

    The U.S. Conference of Mayors [in which LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill has risen to a leadership position] as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors, the American Trucking Association and the Association of American Railroads support the legislation, according to Congresswoman Millender-McDonald's office.

    Projects eligible for federal funding would generally include "Intermodal freight transportation projects that provide community and highway benefits by addressing economic, congestion, security, safety, and environmental issues associated with freight transportation corridors and gateways" and would be limited to:

    (A) Projects to facilitate access to intermodal freight transfer facilities.

    (B) Projects on

    (i) National Highway System routes connecting to intermodal freight terminals 5 identified according to criteria set forth in the report to Congress entitled ‘Pulling Together: The National Highway System and its Connections to Major Intermodal Terminals’, dated May 24, 1996, and any modifications to these connections consistent with subparagraph (D); and

    (ii) the Strategic Highway Network (commonly known as ‘STRAHNET’), including connectors to strategic military deployment ports.

    (C) Projects on high priority corridors identified in section 1105(c) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991 (105 Stat. 19 2032).

    (D) Projects to separate railroad and road crossings and make other railroad and road interface improvements.

    In selecting projects for the program, the Secretary of Transportation would give priority to projects that exhibit the following criteria:

    (1) Enhances national, regional, and local economies by allowing for economic development and growth, as measured by

    (A) impact on the Nation’s gross domestic product;

    (B) increases in new businesses and jobs;

    (C) State and local tax receipts;

    (D) changes in prices and manufacturing efficiencies; and

    (E) improved safety as measured by reductions in accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

    (2) Seeks to maximize economic opportunities for communities, including increasing local hiring.

    (3) Considers factors such as improved mobility, congestion relief, energy consumption, air pollution, and noise pollution.

    (4) Demonstrates availability of local resources to augment the transportation infrastructure.

    (5) Leverages incremental funding as measured by non-Federal, public and private investment projects, and uses innovative financing and local funding and financing by attracting local public and private investment.

    (6) Integrates and deploys intelligent transportation technologies.

    (7) Encourages and facilitates regional partnerships to develop high priority corridors identified in section 1105(c) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.

    (8) Encourages or facilitates major multistate or regional mobility and economic growth and development in areas underserved by existing highway infrastructure.

    (9) Reduces commercial and other travel time through a major national gateway or affected port of entry expected as a result of the proposed project including the level of traffic delays at at-grade highway crossings of major rail lines in trade corridors.

    The Secretary of Transportation may then make grants under the program to "assist State and local governmental authorities" in financing the following:

    (i) capital projects, including property and improvements;

    (ii) the capital costs of coordinating projects under the program with other transportation modes;

    (iii) the introduction of new technology, through innovative and improved products, into projects under the program;

    (iv) capital projects to modernize existing corridors and gateways; and

    (v) the development of corridors to support and expand the safe, secure, and efficient movement of goods, including protecting rights of way through acquisition, construction of dedicated truck and high occupancy vehicle lanes and other non-vehicular capital improvements that the Secretary may decide would result in mitigating congestion in such corridors.

    The legislation recites a stated aim to "to maximize the use of existing capacity, adopt best industry practices, and plan and finance system improvements driven by goods movement demand," and its proposed findings include:

    Critical intermodal freight projects with national and regional economic significance, but with associated local impacts, are often difficult to shepherd, achieve consensus support, and fund through the current metropolitan planning process. The importance of safe, secure, and efficient goods movement to the health and welfare of the national economy should recognized by the establishment of a goods movement program."

    It adds:

    Growth in international trade has become increasingly important to the welfare of the domestic economy and economic security, as demonstrated by the fact that between 1970 and 1999 the share of the United States gross domestic product accounted for by trade in goods and services grew from 10.7 percent to 26.9 percent...Increased growth in international trade places a disproportionate demand on our surface transportation infrastructure concentrated in our major international gateways, metropolitan and urban centers, and trade corridors, resulting in a high concentration of freight traffic relative to total vehicle movement and growing congestion which is adversely affecting regional mobility, safety, security, and environmental quality in affected communities and the reliability and sustainability of our national transportation system and the global connectivity underpinning our national economy.

    "My legislation focuses our resources on projects and initiatives that promote the safe, secure and efficient mobility of goods and on the immediate and long-term needs of our transportation infrastructure," said Congresswoman Millender-McDonald in a written release. "We must have a dedicated source of funding to ensure that goods movement and projects of economic significance can be built and that these projects contribute to the overall efficiency of the national transportation infrastructure and the livability of our communities," she added.

    In addition to serving as senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald is the Senior CA member of the subcommittee on Transit and Highways and Aviation...both of which will be writing reauthorization bills during the 108th Congress. She is also a founder of the House Goods Movement Caucus.

    The initial text of the bill in pdf form can be viewed at: HR 3398 (initial text).

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