The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has just announced that it is encouraged by the potential of significant gains for landside freight transportation programs in President Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget.
However, AAPA is disappointed in the proposed funding levels for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coastal navigation programs, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Port Security Grant program.
The proposed budget reflects the funding increases and freight focus evident in the recently-enacted FAST Act that President Obama signed into law in December, which includes close to $2 billion in dedicated freight funding, said AAPA in the release.
According to AAPA, the budget calls for a new 21st Century Clean Transportation Plan that would significantly increase funding for TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery). If adopted, that would push TIGER funding from $500 million to $1.25 billion.
Conversely, the proposed budget would significantly reduce funding for navigation maintenance and improvements, which is desperately needed to ensure America’s international competitiveness and to allow the nation’s ports to accommodate increasingly large, sea-going vessels. It would also cut funding for DERA and port security grants.
“International trade now accounts for fully 30 percent of the U.S. economy,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO. “To compete in global markets, America needs an efficient and modern 21st century freight transportation system.”
Mr. Nagle continued, “We’re pleased to see and support the increased funding requested for surface transportation infrastructure, but deeply troubled by a grossly imbalanced budget that would cut funding for maintenance and modernization of federal navigation channels, the critical waterside infrastructure that connect our ports and nation to the world marketplace.”
When Congress passed the overwhelmingly-supported and bipartisan Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) in 2014, it established annual incremental increases for Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) funded work.
That would lead to full use of revenues in fiscal 2025, as highlighted in AAPA’s Hit the HMT Target campaign. Not only does the President’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget fail to hit the HMT target, it also fails to continue funding the HMT donor equity provisions that Congress initiated last year. AAPA strongly supports those provisions.
“It’d be a grievous ‘miss’ if this budget is adopted,” said Mr. Nagle. “By underfunding needed waterside investments, it breaks a vital link in the supply chain that disadvantages the entire freight-handling system, waterside and landside.”
The $951 million requested by the President for maintaining America’s deep-draft harbors is 22 percent less than the $1.22 billion appropriated by Congress for fiscal 2016. Furthermore, the budget request for the Corps’ coastal navigation construction program appears to be significantly less than the congressionally-approved fiscal 2016 budget.