The Trade Corridor Bulletin

Volume 17 – No. 3 | June 2023

CAGTC Annual Meeting Examines Critical Opportunities to Support a Strong Freight Network

By: CAGTC Staff

Freight and supply chain industry leaders from across the nation gathered in mid-May blocks away from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) annual meeting. Two years into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), CAGTC members discussed implementation progress, industry trends, and how freight infrastructure investment needs will extend far beyond the BIL.

At the annual meeting, CAGTC released two work products: the fourth edition of its Freight Can’t Wait booklet, showcasing 60 significant freight projects from across the country that would benefit from federal grant funding, as well as a survey of its membership on their experiences with BIL competitive grants. These complementary materials underscore the need for dedicated freight funding. Freight Can’t Wait can be viewed here and its membership survey results can be viewed here.

The meeting began with an off-the-record conversation with staff from the relevant Congressional authorizing committees. Jordan Baugh, Professional Staff on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; Michael Davisson, Professional Staff on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Jackie Schmitz, Democrat Staff Director of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit; and Cheryle Tucker, Republican Staff Director of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit participated in the panel and shared insights into BIL oversight and reauthorization priorities.

Building for the Needs of Tomorrow

According to USDOT, freight volumes are expected to grow 50 percent by 2050, requiring improved infrastructure to accommodate the influx. As infrastructure demands continue to grow, Tom Saunders, Director of Government Affairs for Ports America, moderated a panel to explore the trends driving investment decisions.

To begin, Gary Carlin, Inrix's Director of Business Development for the Public Sector of the Western Region, shared how the pandemic resulted in lifestyle changes impacting the transportation industry, such as more remote work, a dramatic increase in delivery services, and afternoon travel peaks starting sooner and lasting longer.

To accommodate growing freight volumes and evolving supply chains, stakeholders across the country are focused on planning efforts to improve infrastructure and operations. Brandy Christian, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of New Orleans, said the port is focused on enhancing crane and berth productivity, leveraging real estate assets, and regaining cargo volume. The Port of New Orleans is meeting growing demands through its Louisiana International Terminal project. Construction will begin in 2025 to expand capacity so that the site can accommodate ships exceeding 15,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). The project will have a 2 million TEU capacity at full build-out and 3,600 feet of linear berthing space.

Dr. Noel Hacegaba, Deputy Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach, said the port’s largest capital investment this decade is the Pier B rail support facility. The project will provide rail system improvements to allow more cargo to be transported via on-dock rail, thereby reducing truck travel and improving efficiency.

Growing freight system needs have pointed to the importance of supply chain data visibility and coordination. Dr. Hacegaba said the Port of Long Beach recognized this need and launched the Supply Chain Information Highway to facilitate data exchanges in partnership with port authorities across the U.S. Investment decisions are also driven by growing energy demands. The Port of Long Beach is meeting energy demands through its Pier Wind project, which will house a floating offshore wind facility to support the production of offshore wind turbines. The project positions California and the U.S. at the forefront of offshore wind development.

Doug Pryor, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Will County Center for Economic Development, discussed the unique challenges experienced as an inland port to connect various sections of the site and surrounding areas. In response to this challenge, they initiated the Houbolt Road Extension Project – an expansion project to provide a new truck access route. Additionally, Will County completed a new intermodal masterplan to prioritize upcoming projects and finalized a truck routing study to strategically link nearby counties.

Media Panel

David Garofalo, Assistant Vice President of Membership and Marketing for the Intermodal Association of North America, moderates the media panel with Transport Topics' Eugene Mulero, Politico's Tanya Snyder, and FreightWaves' John Gallagher.

David Garofalo, Assistant Vice President of Membership and Marketing for the Intermodal Association of North America, served as the moderator for CAGTC’s conversation with transportation reporters.

Mr. Garofalo asked the panelists to share their thoughts on legislators' approach to transportation and infrastructure in the 118 Congress. FreightWaves’ John Gallagher shared that infrastructure would continue to be a major talking point in the 2024 presidential and midterm elections as both sides of the aisle aim to show wins for their districts.

The week following the CAGTC annual meeting, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure marked up a supply chain package. Panelists shared insight into the supply chain package, which contains several bills, including one to streamline the permitting process and one providing priority consideration under the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight & Highway Projects (INFRA) and the National Infrastructure Project Assistance program (Mega) grant programs to freight projects. Transport Topics’ Eugene Mulero observed that legislators seem to be taking a bipartisan approach to the package and expected the Senate to generally support the legislation.

The BIL is described by many individuals as a once-in-a-lifetime investment, sparking questions about whether this could deter much-needed investments in the next surface transportation authorization. Politico’s Tanya Snyder said she frequently hears varying opinions on the funding baseline for future surface transportation authorizations. She expected Democrats to begin asserting that funding levels provided through the BIL should be sustained in future reauthorizations.

Panelists discussed predictions for the fiscal year 2024 appropriations process and potential impacts on transportation. Similar to last year, Mr. Mulero expected Congress to pass a short-term extension funding the government past the September 30 deadline with a full appropriations bill enacted in December. Given that safety is a high-profile issue in the transportation industry, he anticipated the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill to be presented as a safety bill.

Keynote: BIL Implementation Progress

USDOT Deputy Chief of Staff Kara Fischer provides keynote remarks at CAGTC's annual meeting.

USDOT Deputy Chief of Staff Kara Fischer provided keynote remarks during the annual meeting. She detailed USDOT’s priorities, such as making freight transportation more sustainable, predictable, and efficient. USDOT is focusing on this priority through the Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) initiative and standing up the Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy to provide a holistic overview of all transportation modes with a focus on infrastructure investment, data exchange, and market analysis.

Recognizing the oversubscription of federal grant programs, she stressed the importance of shifting the narrative that the BIL was a once-in-a-generation investment. In fiscal year 2022, several grant programs were significantly oversubscribed.

We Asked, CAGTC Members Responded: What’s Your Experience With BIL?

Two years into BIL implementation, CAGTC surveyed its membership on their experiences seeking and receiving funding through the landmark bill. Jason Smeak, AVP of Global Supply Chain & Logistics for Global Goods Movement at AECOM, presented CAGTC’s survey results, noting that two-thirds of CAGTC member respondents received funding through BIL grant programs. Organizations applying for federal funding encountered several challenges when preparing grant applications, including changes in selection criteria, shifting program goals, uniformity across modal agencies, and the timing of notices of funding opportunities.

Learn more about CAGTC’s grant survey results in the newsletter here.

Intersection of Energy & Transportation

Moderated by Fran Inman, Senior Vice President of Majestic Realty Co., this panel explored how the industry is adapting to meet new environmental goals and regulations.

During the panel, industry leaders outlined how their respective organizations are meeting environmental goals. Heather Wood, Director of Sustainability for CMA CGM North America, said the company’s sustainable technology includes 23 liquid natural gas vessels and 25 methanol-powered vessels. CMA CGM plans to operate 77 liquid natural gas vessels by 2026 to help achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Jenny Busby, Director of Government Affairs of Transportation Policy for Siemens Corporation, said Siemens is prioritizing hydrogen and battery solutions to become carbon neutral by 2030. Ms. Inman noted that maintaining a global perspective is important so that all stakeholders learn best practices from each other.

A major transportation industry effort is shifting from diesel to electric heavy-duty vehicles. Jeff Short, Vice President of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), discussed the challenges associated with this transition, such as the insufficient number of charging sites due to the current truck parking shortage. Other challenges include electric vehicle production and electricity supply and demand. Mr. Short highlighted that electrifying the entire U.S. fleet would require 1,593.8 billion kWh, representing 40.3 percent of U.S. consumption. Will Marshall, Freight Electrification Program Associate for the Electrification Coalition, said there was a 30-fold increase in federal investment in transportation electrification, not accounting for available tax credits, thanks to the BIL and Inflation Reduction Act. To help the industry meet electrification goals, the Electrification Coalition engages with medium-and heavy-duty state policy initiatives, develops policy briefs, and maintains an online electric vehicle funding navigator.

 

Debt Ceiling Agreement Includes Infrastructure Permit Streamlining

By: CAGTC Staff

On June 3, President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 to suspend the debt ceiling until January 2025, avoiding a government default. While the law limits government spending by setting annual spending caps, it also made the first significant reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act since 1982.

First signed into law in 1970, NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the direct, indirect, and overall environmental impacts of federal actions. This includes a variety of actions, such as certain infrastructure projects receiving federal funding or projects requiring a federal permit. Under NEPA, a federal agency must prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) evaluating whether the proposed action has the potential to cause significant environmental effects. Following the completion of the EA, an agency will either issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) if the project will cause significant environmental impacts. The EIS requirements are more detailed and rigorous than the EA.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act incorporates provisions from Rep. Graves’ (R-LA) Building United States Infrastructure through Limited Delays and Efficient Reviews (BUILDER) Act. The law amends NEPA by limiting the scope of what an agency may consider when carrying out EIS reviews, making reviews less extensive. Under the law, an agency’s considerations are limited to “reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts of the proposed agency action” and “reasonably foreseeable adverse environmental effects.” Additionally, the alternatives to the proposed action must be “technically and economically feasible and meet the purpose and need of the proposed action.”

Additionally, the law codifies certain elements of One Federal Decision (OFD), which was first initiated by the Trump Administration through an executive order to expedite the process for environmental reviews and authorization decisions for projects requiring multiple federal authorizations. Although the executive order was repealed by President Biden, OFD policies were incorporated into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires agencies to complete an EA within one year and an EIS within two years. The legislation also established page limits for both materials. If an agency does not meet these deadlines, project applicants may seek judicial enforcement.

The law further streamlines the environmental review process by setting procedures for determining a lead agency to carry out an environmental review and allows an agency to adopt a categorical exclusion listed in another agency’s NEPA procedures. Under the law, the Council on Environmental Quality must study the potential for using modern digital technologies to create an online portal where applicants can submit all required documents, collaborate with an agency to edit documents in real-time, and track the progress of an application.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act passed the House by a vote of 314-117 and the Senate by a vote of 63-36. President Bidden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act into law on June 3. Moving forward, relevant federal agencies will begin interpreting and implementing the law by initiating rulemakings.

Industry News

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Funding for 63 Projects in 32 States That Will Help Reduce Train-Vehicle Collisions and Blocked Rail Crossings in the U.S.

On June 5, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it has awarded more than $570 million in Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Grant Program funding to projects in 32 states. This inaugural round of funding will address more than 400 at-grade crossings nationwide, improve safety, and make it easier to get around railroad tracks by adding grade separations, closing at-grade crossings, and improving existing at-grade crossings where train tracks and roads intersect.

Preventing blocked crossings and collisions is one of many ways President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will make a difference in people’s everyday lives by improving safety and convenience and creating good-paying jobs to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Last year, there were more than 2,000 highway-rail crossing collisions in the U.S. and more than 30,000 reports of blocked crossings submitted to FRA’s public complaint portal.

Examples of major projects funded this year include:

  • California – Third Street Grade Separation Project (Up To $15,000,000)
    City of Riverside
  • California – Doran Street Grade Separation Project (Up To $38,300,000)
    Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • California – San Diego At-Grade Crossing Elimination Study (Up To $1,096,800)
    San Diego Association of Governments
  • Florida – City of Fort Lauderdale Railroad Safety and Congestion Analysis (Up To $280,000)
    City of Fort Lauderdale
  • Idaho – SH-53 Pleasant View Grade Separation Project (Up To $36,000,000)
    Idaho Department of Transportation
  • Tennessee – 3rd St SE and Norfolk Southern Railroad Grade Separation (Up To $27,483,694)
    City of Cleveland
  • Washington – S. Holgate St At-Grade Crossing Elimination Study (Up To $2,000,000)
    City of Seattle

Read the full release here. View the selected projects here.

Industry News

Biden-Harris Administration Opens Streamlined Application Process for More Than $5.5 Billion in Funding to Help Carry Out Major Infrastructure Projects Across the Country

On June 27, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the Department of Transportation is now taking applications for up to $5.575 billion in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for projects of regional or national significance. This funding supports three major discretionary grant programs that involve surface transportation projects designed to strengthen supply chains, spur economic development, and improve safety and daily life. Applications for funding are being solicited together under a single opportunity titled the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant program.

Available funding includes:

  • $1.8 billion for the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Mega) program: The Mega program supports large, complex projects that are difficult to fund by other means and are likely to generate national or regional economic, mobility, or safety benefits. Eligible projects could include highway, bridge, freight, port, passenger rail, and public transportation projects of national or regional significance.  Per the law, 50 percent of funds are available for projects above $500 million in total cost, and 50 percent are available for projects between $100 million and $500 million in total cost.
  • $3.1 billion for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program: The INFRA program awards competitive grants to multimodal freight and highway projects of national or regional significance to improve the safety, accessibility, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of freight and people in and across rural and urban areas.  Eligible projects will improve safety, generate economic benefits, reduce congestion, enhance resiliency, and hold the greatest promise to eliminate supply chain bottlenecks and improve critical freight movements.
  • $675 million for the Rural Surface Transportation Grant (Rural) program: The Rural program supports projects that improve and expand our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas in order to increase connectivity, improve the safety and reliability of the movement of people and freight, and generate regional economic growth and improve quality of life. Eligible projects for Rural grants include highway, bridge, and tunnel projects that help improve freight, safety, and provide or increase access to agricultural, commercial, energy, or transportation facilities that support the economy of a rural area. 90% of rural funding must be awarded in $25 million or greater amounts.

The deadline for applications is 11:59 pm EDT on August 21, 2023. Read the full release here.

Industry News

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Funding for 162 Community-Led Infrastructure Projects as Part of the Investing in America Agenda

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg joined Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn and others in South Carolina to announce that the Biden-Harris Administration has awarded more than $2.2 billion from the RAISE discretionary grant program to 162 different infrastructure projects across the country.

The RAISE grant program, expanded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, supports communities of all sizes, with half of the FY2023 funding going to rural areas and the other half to urban areas. RAISE discretionary grants help project sponsors at the State and local levels, including municipalities, Tribal governments, counties, and others complete critical freight and passenger transportation infrastructure projects that they may not have had the funding to carry out prior to passage of President Biden’s infrastructure law. The eligibility requirements of RAISE allow project sponsors to obtain funding for projects that are harder to support through other U.S. DOT grant programs.

Read the full release here and the full list of project awards here.

Industry News

Biden-Harris Administration Opens Applications for First Year of $400M Competitive Grant Program to Reduce Truck Air Pollution at America’s Ports

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration opened applications for the first round of a new $400 million grant program under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that focuses on port electrification and efficiency improvements. This program is one of several ways the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda is investing billions of dollars in ports of all sizes to modernize their infrastructure, improve air quality, and strengthen supply chains.

The FY2022-2023 funding for the Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program totals $160 million. The funding will focus on projects that reduce emissions from idling trucks at our nation’s ports, which negatively impacts air quality for surrounding communities, including small children, truck drivers, and port workers.

“When truckers spend hours idling at ports, it costs them time, takes money out of their pockets, and pollutes the air in nearby communities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “The investments we are announcing today will save truck drivers time and money, help ports reduce congestion and emissions, and deliver better air quality for workers and communities alike.”

Read the full release here.

Member News

Workforce Development Achievements In The San Gabriel Valley Lauded, Underscoring Impactful Initiative

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) honored the first cohort of nine students who successfully completed SGV Works, the SGVCOG's trailblazing and transformative workforce development program for at-risk transitional-age youth. During their monthly governing board meeting, the SGVCOG Governing Board recognized and celebrated the accomplishments of these exceptional individuals.

"We are immensely proud of these graduates," said Becky Shevlin, SGVCOG President and City of Monrovia Mayor. "The dedication and hard work of each individual will aid in transforming their lives, and their success stories will serve as a source of inspiration for others around them. The SGVCOG will remain steadfast in its commitment to empowering people through innovative and effective programs like SGV Works."

SGV Works is a groundbreaking and comprehensive initiative designed to provide paid job training and supportive services, equipping participants with the necessary skills and resources for long-term economic security. The program, facilitated by God's Pantry in Pomona, a non-profit organization and service provider for the SGVCOG, delivered tailored employment training, credential and certification attainment, and guidance on furthering education to these deserving individuals.

In 2022, the SGVCOG launched SGV Works to help connect participants with stable employment that will help lead to long-term economic security. This program would not be possible without the support of our state and federal legislators. In FY 2021-2022, the SGVCOG received $1,000,000 from the California Workforce Development Board, secured by California State Senator Rubio, to launch the program. The Senator was on hand to commend the students.

The positive impact of SGV Works on individuals seeking long-term economic security will continue to flourish, thanks to additional funding received from the FY 2022-2023 federal spending bill. Congresswomen Grace Napolitano, Linda Sanchez, and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla played pivotal roles in championing and acquiring this funding. With increased financial resources, SGV Works is poised to extend and enhance its efforts, empowering more individuals across the San Gabriel Valley to access sustainable employment and attain long-term economic stability.

Read the full release here.

Member News

Port of Hueneme Signs Memorandum of Understanding on California Ports Data Systems Development

The Port of Hueneme attended the signing of the historic MOU between California’s five containerized ports inclusive of the Port of Hueneme, the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Oakland, and the Port of San Diego in Sacramento and was proud to be part of this important milestone of launching the California Port Data Partnership alongside state and federal partners.

The MOU outlines an agreement between the five ports to jointly advance computerized and cloud-based data interoperability with a common goal of supporting improved freight system resilience, goods movement efficiency, emissions reduction, and economic competitiveness.

“California’s ports are an essential link in the global supply chain. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Newsom and our state Legislature, California is establishing a first-of-its-kind, collaborative data system between all our state’s containerized cargo ports,” said California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. “Today’s historic agreement will create a greener, more transparent, and more efficient supply chain -unlocking innovation in how cargo moves in California.”

Read the full release here.

Member News

Transportation Leaders, Advocates to Assist with Chicago Mayor-Elect Transition

CAGTC Vice Chair Erin Aleman

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and many of its partners will lend their transportation expertise to assist with Chicago's new mayoral administration.

CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman will serve on Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson's Transportation Subcommittee. The subcommittee features many prominent transportation and leaders in the region.

Read the full release here.

Research News

CAGTC Releases Competitive Grant Survey Results

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created unprecedented competitive grant opportunities for freight infrastructure projects. Two years into implementation of the BIL, CAGTC surveyed its membership on their experiences seeking and receiving funding through the landmark bill.

Notably, an impressive two-thirds of CAGTC member respondents received funding through BIL grant programs. CAGTC members invested many hours in the preparation of grant applications. Across the major capital investment grant programs, respondents averaged 221 hours per application. Grant awardees experienced a variety of challenges in order to receive funds, such as Buy America requirements, NEPA requirements, finalizing grant agreements, and procurement requirements. The results showed that, despite challenges in the process, 100 percent of respondents will continue to seek federal funding through competitive grants.

To view CAGTC’s full survey results, visit here.

Research News

Supply Chain: Updated Freight Handbook Could Enhance Stakeholder Decision-Making

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to update its Freight and Land Use Handbook and develop a strategy to communicate the updated handbook to freight stakeholders.

Read the full report here.