The Trade Corridor Bulletin

Volume 14 – No. 1 | November 2019

Democratic Candidates Talk Transportation: the Greener the Better

As the Democratic Party's campaign trail progresses, each candidate has worked to stand out as the obvious frontrunner. The significance of transportation infrastructure was at the forefront of election dialogue in 2016 — yet a robust discussion of this sector has remained largely absent this debate season. Most candidates who vocalized their perspective called for increased investment but with few funding details. Rather than receiving its own billing, transportation infrastructure has been discussed as one component of several candidates’ climate change policies. Nonetheless, continued monitoring of the transportation infrastructure conversation as it develops could provide insight to the Democrats’ plans for the industry.

Here’s a look at the most comprehensive plans laid out so far.

As a member of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, it’s no surprise that Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has made infrastructure a driving force behind her campaign. Senator Klobuchar discusses her plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure with a $1 trillion investment that will prioritize the rehabilitation and modernization of the transportation sector. Her proposal suggests a number of tax reforms, including adjusting the corporate tax rate to 25 percent in order to raise at least $650 billion in direct federal investment.

Senator Klobuchar’s transportation infrastructure plan focuses on several key areas:

  • Balance the Highway Trust Fund in order to repair and replace roads, highways, and bridges.
  • Modernize seaports and inland waterways.
  • Update commuter and freight rail infrastructure.
  • Build climate smart and green infrastructure. This includes constructing more resilient transportation networks that will sustain damage from rising sea levels and climate change.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), like many of his colleagues on the left, included his vision for transportation in a broader climate change agenda. Senator Sanders shaped his objectives through the Green New Deal and Rebuild America Act, focusing on an overhaul of the transportation sector and rehabilitation of our nation’s outdated infrastructure.

Senator Sanders’ plan is centered around these objectives:

  • Create a zero-emission program to transform the transportation sector into a 100 percent electrically powered and renewable network.
  • Replace all diesel fueled commercial motor vehicles with long-range electric trucks. According to Sanders’ campaign website, “we must spend $216 billion to replace all diesel tractor trailer trucks with fast-charging and long-range electric trucks.”
  • Establish strict decarbonization mandates for all auto-manufacturers to reach 100 percent commercial vehicle sustainability by 2030. This will be enforced by the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Direct the Federal Railroad Administration to adopt new regulations that will retrofit trains carrying fossil fuels to prevent spillage.
  • Increase funds for national roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. Sanders’ Rebuild America Act will transfer $75 billion into the Highway Trust Fund.
  • Repair freight and passenger transportation networks. Sanders’ Rebuild America Act provides $5 billion for BUILD (formerly known as TIGER) grant projects.

Former Vice President Joe Biden advocates for greater investment in transportation infrastructure to ensure that our aging network is capable of meeting growing economic demands. He asserts that our nation’s infrastructure must keep pace with modern resiliency efforts. Vice President Biden’s climate change and environmental justice budget calls for $1.7 trillion in federal investment over the next ten years, with an additional $5 trillion leveraged from private sector, state, and local investments.

Vice President Biden’s proposal for transportation infrastructure includes the following:

  • Pursue freight projects that will connect communities lacking adequate access to greater metropolitan areas.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by preserving and implementing the existing Clean Air Act, and developing new fuel economy standards aimed at ensuring 100 percent of vehicles will become electrically powered. To incentivize this, Vice President Biden will reinstitute an electric vehicle tax credit.
  • Invest in green infrastructure nationwide to ensure that our transportation can meet economic needs and withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Prioritize coastal restoration, resilient infrastructure design, construction and evaluation. This includes implementing new technology that will assess the risk and resiliency of structures.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has put forth a transportation program that keeps pace with her dedication to climate change and environmental sustainability. As one of the original cosponsors of the Green New Deal resolution, Senator Warren proposes reforms aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Senator Warren stated that a federal investment of $3 trillion over ten years will achieve her zero-emission and decarbonization goals, along with unspecified trillions in private investments.

Senator Warren suggests:

  • Complete 100 percent zero-emissions for all new light- and medium-duty vehicles by 2030.
  • Establish a Clean Fuel Standard to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting lower-carbon alternative fuels.
  • Require rapid electrification of the federal vehicle fleet, requiring that all new vehicle purchases be zero-emission by the end of her first term.
  • Decarbonize the transportation sector, especially long-distance shipping.

Industry News

House Passes the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act

On October 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed four bills from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, including bipartisan legislation to unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

This bipartisan bill makes it easier for Congress to appropriate any funds collected in the Trust Fund for authorized harbor maintenance needs, including the existing $9.5 billion balance in the Trust Fund.  The legislation enables the expenditure of approximately $34 billion over the next decade, which will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to dredge all Federal harbors to their constructed widths and depths.

“Today was a win, years in the making, for our Nation’s coastal communities, and members of the maritime workforce. Congress finally passed the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, legislation to ensure our ports and harbors receive the funding they need to ensure they are fully operational,” said Chair DeFazio.

Read the full release here.

Industry News

Secretary Chao Announces Initiative to Support Rural Needs

On October 8, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao introduced a new initiative to prioritize rural transportation needs. The Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) Initiative will assure the Department develops funding opportunities that address the challenges facing rural transportation infrastructure. Secretary Chao made the announcement during the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Rural America, which has a disproportionately high rate of fatalities and is historically neglected, needs to have its transportation needs addressed,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

Read the full release here.

Member News

Port of San Diego Receives Top Honors for Environmental Reports

Source: Port of San Diego

The Port of San Diego has received two prestigious recognitions from the Association of Environmental Professionals, San Diego Chapter. The awards were presented at the Association’s Annual Awards and Scholarship Event held October 24, 2019 in San Diego.

The Port earned an Outstanding Technical Report Award for its Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment and Coastal Resiliency Report. The report assesses how the Port proposes to address projected sea level rise and includes an analysis of the impacts of projected sea level rise as described in the resolution of the California Ocean Projection Council on Sea Level Rise and the latest version of the State of California Sea Level Rise Guidance Document.

The Port and its partners at the California State Lands Commission received the Outstanding Public Involvement Award for the San Diego Ocean Planning Partnership Preliminary Assessment Report. The San Diego Ocean Planning Partnership is a collaborative pilot project between the California State Lands Commission and the Port. In the first phase, known as the preliminary assessment phase, the Commission and the Port engaged with stakeholders and collected feedback to better understand the ocean space offshore of San Diego County. 

Read the full release here.

Member News

Port of Vancouver USA Commissioner Jerry Oliver Receives Distinguished Service Award

Source: Port of Vancouver USA

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) has recognized Port of Vancouver USA Commissioner Jerry Oliver with a Distinguished Service Award.

Commissioner Oliver received the award on Oct. 9 at the PNWA Annual Convention in Vancouver. He was selected for his dedicated service to the maritime industry, including leadership on port and navigation issues that impact the economic health of Southwest Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest.

“Commissioner Oliver has been a strong advocate for the Columbia Snake River System, particularly the Columbia River Channel Deepening Project and the jetties at the Mouth of the Columbia River,” said PNWA Executive Director Kristin Meira. “We are proud to honor his 12 years of dedicated service to the Port of Vancouver and the region.”

Read the full release here.

Research News

Issues and Options for a Tax on Vehicle Miles Traveled by Commercial Trucks


Since 2001, spending from the Highway Trust Fund for highway and transit programs has consistently exceeded revenues from taxes on highway users. The Congressional Budget Office projects that without additional revenues or reductions in spending, the fund will be exhausted by 2022. This report examines one option for reducing the trust fund’s imbalances: a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by commercial trucks. Kentucky, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon already levy such taxes at the state level.

CBO estimates that in 2017, a tax of 1 cent per mile on all roads would have raised about $2.6 billion for the trust fund if imposed on all commercial trucks and about $1.6 billion if imposed only on those with one or more trailers. Revenues would have increased almost proportionally for higher tax rates.

Read the full report here.

Research News

America's Rolling Warehouses: Opportunities and Challenges With the Nation's Freight Delivery System


October 2019

The nation’s freight transportation system plays a vital role in the quality of life of Americans, providing the timely movement of raw materials and finished products that are vital to the health of the U.S. agricultural, industrial, energy, retail and service sectors. The amount of freight transported in the U.S. is expected to increase significantly as a result of further economic growth, changing business and retail models, increasing international trade, and rapidly changing consumer expectations that place an emphasis on faster deliveries, often of smaller packages or payloads. This report examines current and projected levels of freight movement in the U.S., large truck safety, and trends impacting freight movement. It concludes with a series of recommendations to improve the nation’s freight transportation system.

Read the full report here.

Upcoming Events

January 5-8, 2020: NRC 2020 Annual Conference 
San Diego, CA

January 12-16, 2020: Transportation Research Board 99th Annual Meeting 
Washington, DC

February 9-12, 2020: NARC 2020 National Conference of Regions
Washington, DC

February 25-28, 2020: AASHTO 2020 Washington Briefing
Washington, DC