Thursday, August 10, 2017

CAGTC applauds FASTLANE awards

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The existing Port of Moses Lake rail line adjacent to State Route 17 at Parker Horn, in downtown Moses Lake. The existing Port of Moses Lake rail line adjacent to State Route 17 at Parker Horn, in downtown Moses Lake. Washington State Department of Transportation

Freight infrastructure improvements, particularly in rural locations, are a priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s latest round of awards.

The DOT released its proposed list of 10 project awards under the small project fiscal year 2017 Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Project program (FASTLANE). Of the 10 proposed awards, most were multimodal and all featured freight infrastructure improvements.

“The Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program was designed by Congress to fund projects that help improve America’s commerce and freight mobility especially,” said President Leslie Blakey of The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC). “We are pleased that this round of grants lives up to that standard. Rural lawmakers have long expressed concerns that competitive grants may not be effective in their regions and are more likely to favor urban areas. USDOT has done well to select freight-focused, multimodal small-scale projects in mostly rural areas that can improve business efficiency not only regionally but nationally.”

The group said improving all levels of freight infrastructure is a “win-win” for urban and rural areas, as well as the country as a whole. “Our nation’s goods movement needs are generated in both rural communities and urban centers,” said Blakey, “requiring dependable and cost-effective infrastructure from end-to-end. And competitive grants are an essential way to get vital investment to projects that can do the most good.”

“We applaud the Department for recognizing that small projects, not just megaprojects, can leverage federal funds and create important freight benefits,” said Tim Lovain, CAGTC Chairman and Executive Vice President of Crossroads Strategies. “A great example of a small project becoming an economic multiplier is this partnership between Port of Moses Lake and the Washington State Department of Transportation. Creating rail access to the Port of Moses Lake will deliver benefits by developing safer and more efficient access to the Port’s industrial park.”

The award helps pay for the estimated $30 million project to finish a rail line from Wheeler to the Port of Moses Lake, enabling manufacturers based in the port to ship by rail instead of truck.

According to DOT, funding requests for this small grant FASTLANE round totaled more than $1.8 billion, or 22.5 times the approximately $80 million made available for the program.