As I wrote in yesterday's blog post, America's freight system is the lifeblood of our economy. When it's healthy, we can move goods quickly and efficiently to benefit both businesses and consumers across the country. So I'm pleased to announce that we're launching a Freight Policy Council to focus on improving the condition and performance of our national freight network to better ensure our ability to compete in today’s global economy.
The recent transportation bill--Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP21--that President Obama signed earlier this summer establishes a national freight policy and calls for the creation of a National Freight Strategic Plan. And DOT’s Freight Policy Council will develop these and work on other key freight provisions in the legislation.
A strong freight transportation system is essential for helping meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.
And nowhere is our progress toward the President's goal better demonstrated than in the State of Washington, where the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma move $20 billion in cargo each year and support more than 300,000 jobs. Their capacity is complemented by a rail and highway network that in 2010 allowed shippers to move 533 million tons of goods across the state.
As U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell said, “With increasing competition abroad, Washington businesses require a 21st century approach to moving goods. This new Freight Policy Council provides the roadmap our nation needs to stay competitive and grow our trade economy."
This approach has been a huge success in the State of Washington with its Freight Mobility Investment Board. It's what MAP-21 calls for. And business leaders will tell you it's just the smart thing to do.
America has one of the best freight networks in the world. In fact, every American is responsible for 40 tons of freight a year, so when you do the math it's plain to see that, across the country, America's shippers are delivering the goods. But we can do better, and we must.
That's why DOT continues to invest in freight through our grant and loan programs. More than $953 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover (TIGER) funds have gone to 50 projects that improve freight. More than a third of TIGER funding— $354 million—went to 25 port projects from coast to coast. Freight projects are also eligible for the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program that provides up to $35 billion in loans and loan guarantees. And under MAP-21, freight projects can also qualify for $1.75 billion in Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) funding for the next two years.
The Freight Policy Council--with leaders from DOT and input from business, industry, and academic stakeholders--is another step forward in our efforts to keep America's economy moving.
This Administration is absolutely committed to making the U.S. freight system the best in the world. DOT's Freight Policy Council will help us get there.