Hello everyone. It’s great to be here at the Port of Seattle—a fine example of the economic impact of freight.
As we all know, the west coast of America is the sixth largest economy in the world. And this region is critical to our economy and our efforts to expand trade.
The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma alone move almost $20 billion in cargo to international markets and generate over 300,000 jobs in Washington State.
That makes Washington State a model for freight systems across the country. At DOT, we’re excited to take the best of what you’ve done and use it to make freight work for American businesses, factories, farms and consumers nationwide.
America has one of the best freight systems in the world. And that’s important, because freight movement is the lifeblood of the American economy.
But to stay competitive in today’s global economy, the U.S. must tackle three key challenges.
First, we must develop a national strategic vision on freight.
Second, the public and private sectors must work together to invest in our nation’s freight network.
Third, we must plan and deliver freight infrastructure projects faster and more efficiently than ever.
Under President Obama’s leadership, we are doing just that.
Today, I am announcing that DOT is creating a Freight Policy Council, which will develop a national plan for improving freight movement and meeting the President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.
This initiative is a direct result of Senator Cantwell’s efforts in the Senate. She is a leader on freight, and I want to thank her for working hard to develop a national freight plan.
Our new council will be high-level—chaired by Deputy Secretary John Porcari.
It will be multimodal, including DOT leadership from highways, rail, ports, pipelines and airports as well as economic and policy experts from across the Administration.
The council will have public and private input from the freight and logistics industry, consumers and other stakeholders.
And it will work closely with State DOTs and encourage them to create comprehensive, multimodal state freight plans.
We’ll help States build partnerships with their private sector freight community–an initiative modeled after Washington State’s Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board.
Our new Freight Policy Council will also implement some of the key freight provisions in the transportation bill signed by President Obama last month, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21.
And through the dollars provided in the bill, we will continue to meet the second challenge – continuing to invest in freight through our grant and loan programs.
Through our successful TIGER grant program alone, DOT has invested $953 million for 50 projects that improve freight nationwide, including several here in Washington State. More than a third of that funding— $354 million—went to 25 port projects from coast to coast.
And as a result of MAP-21, DOT has $1.75 billion in TIFIA funding for the next two years. Those are funds that can be put to work establishing and improving our nation’s intermodal freight network.
Finally, to meet the third challenge, President Obama issued an Executive Order requiring DOT and other Federal agencies to cut red tape and speed up the time it takes to review and permit important infrastructure projects.
This will save time and money while also delivering better outcomes.
Through this initiative, we are expediting four important freight-related projects, including Point Defiance Bypass here in Washington and the Columbia River Crossing between Washington and Oregon—as well as five major port projects.
All of our efforts will support the interconnected nature of freight.
We’ll aim to move goods from ship to train to truck—and finally to consumers—as quickly and efficiently as we can.
President Obama and DOT are committed to making the U.S. freight system the best in the world. I look forward to working with all of you here on that effort.
Again, I want to thank Senator Cantwell for her leadership and for making freight a national priority. Let’s hear what she has to say.