Senate Bill Will Improve Freight Mobility and Economic Vitality

America's goods moving through a Chicago train yard

MAP-21, the Senate transportation proposal, has a number of freight sections.  I asked Leslie Blakey, who manages the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC), to weigh in on freight provisions in the Senate bill.  The Coalition was established in 2001 and is dedicated to the expansion and modernization of America’s freight and goods movement infrastructure. See bottom for more about CAGTC and Ms. Blakey. See also her comments on the House bill: 2 Key Freight Elements in House Transportation Bill.

Senate Bill Will Improve Freight Mobility and U.S. Economic Vitality

By Leslie Blakey, Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors

Senate leaders are making the development and enactment of a long-term transportation plan an immediate priority. Goods movement infrastructure has emerged as an important element the bills that will go to the Senate floor this week to be merged into a final package of legislation. The Senate should be commended for recognizing that the needs of our nation’s multimodal freight system are vast and continue to grow and when the movement of goods is constrained, a drag is exerted on our economy.

Both the Committee on Environment & Public Works (EPW) and the Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation (Commerce) have drafted landmark bills that, through their respective jurisdictions, give much-deserved support to our nation’s freight system. Combined and working together, these two pieces of legislation could provide the policy framework and funds needed for guiding investment to improve and expand our multimodal goods movement network.

The EPW Committee’s bill establishes a new core program of freight investment, primarily for highways, guided by national goals and coordinated policy administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, including continuing investment through Projects of National and Regional Significance (PRNS). The PRNS grant program is intended to support projects with needs too large for traditional funding mechanisms, such as formulaic distribution to states.

The Commerce Committee’s bill provides a comprehensive, systemic approach to multi-modal infrastructure investment that addresses the nation’s rail and water needs while protecting the public interest and helping our nation meet its energy, environment and safety goals. It also calls for the creation of a competitive National Freight Infrastructure Grants program.

While some members of Congress are wary of grant programs, these grant approaches are structured to focus funds where they will provide the most public benefit and leverage the federal investment. This system-focused approach will serve the economic needs of our country in the near term and for generations to come by incentivizing decisions that optimize freight mobility, especially at gateways and on corridors of national significance. In many cases, these worthy projects do not qualify for formula funding, yet the chokepoints that have developed around these hubs of commerce are barriers to trade and carry massive local impacts.

Properly funding our nation’s goods movement infrastructure is a vital step in creating jobs, growing our economy and increasing global economic competitiveness of U.S. companies Working together these two pieces of legislation can expand our capacity for moving goods, relieve chokepoints and keep our nation competitive in the world marketplace.


CAGTC was established in 2001 and is dedicated to the expansion and modernization of America’s freight and goods movement infrastructure. The coalition consists of over 60 public and private organizations, including leading associations, motor carriers, railroads, ports, distribution centers, engineering firms, public authorities and state agencies. CAGTC’s sustained efforts in policy development, education, media relations, and marketing have propelled freight infrastructure needs to a priority level in federal, regional, state and local government agendas. Leslie is often called upon to speak throughout the U.S. and internationally to a wide array of organizations whose interest ranges from the political, as in prospects for comprehensive legislation, to the technical, such as regulatory barriers to U.S. exports.

Leslie Blakey is a principal in the Washington DC public affairs firm of Blakey & Agnew, LLC, a public affairs firm specializing in transportation with expertise in developing communications strategies that make complex regulatory, engineering, and legal issues more easily understood by broader audiences.

A number of Leslie’s clients provide her with a penetrating perspective on transportation, commerce and the environment. Since 2008, she has been a senior counselor to The Conference Board’s Center for Sustainability, working directly with Fortune 500 companies committed to sustainable business practices, corporate social responsibility and a global environmental agenda. For Woolpert, an international engineering firm, she manages an advisory board of national aviation experts to assist the firm in growing its airport and aviation work centered on geospatial information systems. And for the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Leslie is assisting the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) with a two-year rollout of more than 100 research projects that will transform existing approaches to planning, developing and modernizing our national transportation systems.

Leslie also served as a member of the Obama Campaign Transportation Advisory Committee.


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