PASCO, WA. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) visited a local business at the Port of Pasco’s Big Pasco Industrial Center, whose operation depends on efficient freight transportation infrastructure, to highlight the importance of investing in Washington’s freight network to support job growth. Speaking from Lampson International, which employs 275 workers in the U.S. and Canada and has annual gross sales of more than $30 million, Cantwell called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take up provisions of her freight legislation to support port job growth and keep Washington state’s ports competitive.
Cantwell is pushing for Senate passage of job provisions from the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation (FREIGHT) Act, which she introduced last year with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). In Pasco, these FREIGHT measures could pave the way for investment in job-creating projects like the Big Pasco Industrial Center Intermodal Rail Hub at the port. Started in 2005, the hub development project is nearing its final phase of development. In a letter sent today to Majority Leader Reid, Senator Cantwell urged Reid to bring up and encourage passage of the FREIGHT Act provisions before March 31, 2012, when the current surface transportation reauthorization expires.
The FREIGHT Act provisions would help Washington state grow its robust trade economy by making investments to modernize and improve the efficiency of Washington’s intermodal freight network, which includes ports, freight railways, air cargo infrastructure, and highways. If nothing is done, the impacts from increasing competition and a deteriorating freight network could be dire. For example, more than 27,000 jobs and $3.3 billion in economic output could be lost in Washington state if truck congestion within the state increased by just 20 percent, according to a soon-to-be-released study by the Washington State Department of Transportation.
“We need to act now to support job growth at the Port of Pasco,” Cantwell said. “Freight transportation is the foundation of Washington state’s robust trade economy and supports tens of thousands of jobs, including 600 here at the Big Pasco Industrial Center. But freight bottlenecks and deteriorating infrastructure plus increasing competition threatens future growth. I am urging Congress to take up my FREIGHT provisions so Washington state ports have the support they need to modernize.”
Washington state is one of the nation’s top exporting states. In 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight were moved in Washington – a number expected to grow by up to 86 percent by 2040.According to a 2008 U.S. Department of Transportation report, several Washington state cities already rank in the nation’s top 125 freight gateways handling international merchandise by air, land and water, including Seattle, Tacoma, Blaine, Kalama, Vancouver, Anacortes and Sumas. Every hour, $27 million of freight moves on Washington roadways.
Ports like the Port of Pasco play an integral role in
this network and support numerous jobs. Tenants at the Big Pasco Industrial Center employ 600 people, and the port’s activity supports thousands of jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and other freight-dependent industries. Freight-dependent industries in Benton and Franklin counties employed 59,899 people in 2009.
Cantwell has long championed the role ports play in fueling job and economic growth in Washington state. In December, she helped secure committee approval of key provisions of the FREIGHT Act. Cantwell introduced the FREIGHT Act last year to establish America’s first comprehensive national freight transportation policy and support ports.
In August 2010, Cantwell met with Washington state port and transportation officials to discuss the importance of investing in a multimodal freight network to ensure the capacity exists to move goods and products more efficiently. In April 2010, Cantwell called for the development of a national freight mobility plan to back President Obama’s goal to double exports in the next five years.
In a letter to President Obama sent on April 29, 2010, Cantwell proposed adding the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the roster of officials included in the President’s Export Cabinet, because of the critical role of transportation infrastructure in moving exports. In response to Cantwell’s letter, President Obama added the DOT Secretary to the Export Cabinet. And at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on April 29, 2010 – “Doubling U.S. Exports: Are U.S. Sea Ports Ready for the Challenge?” – Cantwell called for infrastructure improvements throughout the transportation supply chain, including road, rail and sea transportation, and for the removal of bottlenecks to rapidly increase exports.