The bill also included a key piece of Cantwell’s FREIGHT Act that will support jobs and economic growth by creating a nationwide strategic freight plan to focus freight investments on projects that maximize economic growth. Cantwell highlighted the FREIGHT Act during recent visits to Port of Pasco, Port of Vancouver and Port of Seattle.
Freight planning and investment have long been priorities for Washington state. Cantwell’s proposal helps extend that priority to the national level. Her proposal would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop a nationwide freight strategic plan that takes all modes into account. Currently, planning to expand or improve the freight network is done in silos spread across multiple federal agencies. This results in duplication and a lack of coordination for the nation’s freight network, which spans highways, railways, airports and maritime ports. Once established, the freight strategic plan would help focus freight investments across the network on the projects with the greatest capacity to support jobs and economic growth. This will help maximize taxpayer investment in the freight network.
Prioritizing freight mobility improvements is especially important to Washington state, which has one of the most robust export economies in the country and relies on multiple modes of freight transportation – including highways, ports, rail, and barges – to transport goods.
In 2011, Washington state exported $64.6 billion worth of goods, which represents an increase of 21 percent over 2010. In 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight were moved in Washington – a number expected to grow by up to 86 percent by 2040. According to a 2008 DOT report, several Washington state cities already rank in the nation’s top 125 freight gateways handling international merchandise by air, land and water, including Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Blaine, Kalama, Anacortes, and Sumas.