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Highway Grants Said Not Helping

Major highway grant programs designed to help move freight are not doing what was intended when Congress passed them, according to a freight industry advocacy group.

The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors says the Tiger and Fastlane highway funding programs are falling short of their promise.

In July, The Department of Transportation proposed awards for 18 Fastlane projects, followed by the eighth round of Tiger Grant funding. “Despite criteria advantaging economic benefits, many of our nation’s critical freight hubs did not receive funding in either competition,” GAGTC points out.

The group blames the emphasis on funding mass transit and passenger commuting at the expense of freight needs. People-moving projects fared well in Fastlane, while freight infrastructure had its poorest showing ever in the Tiger grant program,with only 26% of funds going to freight projects, down from a high of 53% in 2010.

“Like the early rounds of the Tiger competitive grant program, the Fastlane award process will need fine tuning going forward to ensure all awards meet the program’s high standards,” says CAGTC Chairman Tim Lovain, who also serves as executive vice president of Capitol Strategies Partners.

He adds that GAGTC will review the full list of applications under the first round of Fastlane and hopes to work with DOT to ensure that future funding is more focused on significant freight awards, as Congress had intended.

“There are vast freight needs across the country and this type of infrastructure investment yields the highest return,” Lovain observes.

Congress recognized that freight requires increased investment by including landmark freight investment directives under the FAST Act, notes CAGTC President Leslie Blakey.

“We look forward to continuing our dialogue with DOT and hope that future rounds of both the Tiger program and the Fastlane program invest in the nation’s most critical freight asset,” she says.

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