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Senate-Approved Highway Bill Good For America's Ports, Says AAPA

12 Aug, 2019


The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) … the unified and recognized voice of America’s seaports … is commending the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, including EPW Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), for introducing on July 29 a $287 billion surface transportation authorization bill, S. 2302, that the committee approved the following day.
 
“AAPA greatly appreciates the leadership of Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper in recognizing the vital importance of increased investment in freight transportation, including port-related multimodal infrastructure,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle. “This legislation is very promising for America’s seaports. Many of the provisions in the bill relate to AAPA recommendations included in our FAST Act Reauthorization platform.”
 
The legislation is a five-year measure that will extend and amend aspects of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. The new bill provides a 27 percent increase from the $226 billion authorized in the current law, which expires on Sept. 31, 2020.
 
Titled America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 (ATIA), the new legislation is good news for America’s port authorities on several fronts. First, it raises FAST Act-authorized freight formula program funding from a total of $6.3 billion over five years to $8.5 billion over five years. Next, it boosts the freight formula amount that can be granted annually for multimodal freight infrastructure from a cap of 10 percent of project funds available to a cap of 30 percent, or $2.55 billion. Further, it increases INFRA (Infrastructure For Rebuilding America) grant funding from $4.5 billion to $5.5 billion between 2021 and 2025, and raises the existing $500 million cap on multimodal projects to 30 percent of INFRA funding, or $1.65 billion. This would allow more of these U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) merit-based grants to be used for freight and supply chain projects that directly and indirectly benefit port infrastructure and operations.
 
Waiving the multimodal caps on both state funding and INFRA grants is one of AAPA’s highest priorities. 
 
Other key features of the ATIA legislation that would favorably impact America’s ports include:
 
Extending the reauthorization of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grants program through 2024 and adding language requiring EPA to be more flexible with diesel alternatives, which could give ports more flexibility with clean truck programs;
 
Increasing eligibility of the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program to include rural barge landing, dock, and waterfront infrastructure projects;
 
Doubling the maximum number of highway miles a state may designate as critical rural and urban freight corridors in the NHFP, which could help ports that were not included in the past;
 
Authorizing the USDOT to issue grants for charging and fueling stations, similar to what is included in the Green Corridors program, which AAPA supports;
 
Establishing a USDOT grant program, starting at $60 million and rising to $90 million within five years, to reduce idling and emissions from port facilities, including port electrification projects;
 
Allowing states to use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program funds for inland waterway and marine highway projects;
 
Adding new strategies for inclusion within the national freight strategic plan, including strategies to promote resilience, domestic economic growth, competitiveness, and strategies to reduce local air pollution and water runoff. 
 
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