Yesterday, the Eno Center for Transportation released a new report: Life in the FASTLANE: Recommendations for Improving Federal Freight Grants. The report provides a brief history of the FASTLANE program (called “Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects” in the FAST Act), outlines the grant program’s parameters, and provides a summary of projects that were awarded funds from the first round of applications. Eno’s report then makes six recommendations, many of which echo CAGTC longstanding policy and/or the Coalition’s reactions and feedback to the first round of FASTLANE grants.
The recommendations are:
- Congress needs to increase the funding available for FASTLANE grants – or a similar discretionary freight program – to at least $2 billion annually.
- Congress should revise the eligibility standards to allow for all freight projects, including public and private railways, ports, waterways, highways, and intermodal connectors. (An Eno representative clarified on yesterday’s release webinar that, in other words, Eno is recommending that Congress increase the $500 million multimodal flex cap provided to the FASTLANE program.)
- Congress needs to also restrict eligibility to only freight projects. Doing so will allow USDOT to tighten the metrics of the program and increase transparency for project selections.
- USDOT needs to exercise greater transparency and explicitly describe its evaluation process, assign weights to criteria, and publish the final results. Opening up the FASTLANE program to scrutiny will strengthen it in the long run, says the Eno Report.
- USDOT should emphasize leveraging non federal funds, both public and private, by increasing the weight of this metricso that projects that use fewer federal dollars score better. This change will allow federal dollars to close the deal on a project and ensure the program has a broader impact on the national system.
- USDOT should be transparent and explicit in how it awards projects to achieve some form of geographic diversity, and should keep the equity aspect of the selection process to a minimum.
You can read a full copy of the report on Eno’s website, or by clicking here.
Manager, Member Communications & Policy
Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors
1444 Eye St N.W
Washington, DC 20005