Marine Transportation System

Report on Freight Funding Policy

In Federal Government, Infrastructure on September 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm

The TRB has a new report that is worth a look:  Funding Options for Freight Transportation Projects. The study committee was charged with examining the rationale for public investment, evaluating financing strategies for “freight transportation projects of national significance,” assessing the ability to use criteria  in project selection,  and evaluating and comparing “generic financing options…based upon the greatest net benefit and least cost per public dollar invested.”  Here is a summary of the broad categories of recommendations along with a sampling of specifics:

  • Federal freight infrastructure assistance programs should adhere to certain guidelines. Project earmarking “weakens the effectiveness” of programs; any program should be structured to address freight projects on a case-by-case basis and be “flexible to address diverse assistance needs.”
  • Create a new discretionary assistance program to support freight projects, starting with a “test of the need for and value of a responsible and flexible federal program…” The “test” would be $1.8bn over 4-6 years and an independent evaluation to determine the program’s worth.  Note: the program outlined in the report is in many ways similar to the multimodal “TIGER” grants USDOT was charged with administering in the economic stimulus bill enacted last February.  Applications are due Sep15 and selected projects announced in Feb.
  • Make credit assistance more accessible and attractive to freight projects that merit Federal support. Includes revisions to TIFIA; encourage private sector participation by changing tax laws to be “neutral with respect to private versus public management” and finance “the kinds of facilities that commonly are built by the public sector.”
  • Reduce barriers to the development of local and facility-specific revenue sources to pay for freight infrastructure capital costs and provide incentives to encourage use of such sources. Enable port authorities to impose cargo charges “for purposes of  providing revenue for construction and operation of port facilities and access routes…”; reduce barriers to foreign ownership, operation and investment in the transportation industry, “particularly maritime and aviation…”
  • Expand the capability for freight system planning, project evaluation and data collection. Establish a “discrete…home for the functions of project evaluation, performance monitoring and technical assistance to state and local governments;”  develop a “continuing, comprehensive, and systematic program to monitory performance of the national freight transportation system…”

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