AASHTO Journal

Ports, DOTs, Others Urge Lawmakers to Boost Federal Funding for Navigation Projects

Groups representing U.S. ports, state departments of transportation and various waterway industry segments jointly urged congressional appropriators to increase funding for navigation projects as they write legislation for the 2018 budget year that begins Oct. 1.

Among the signers of the May 18 letter were the American Association of Port Authorities, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and groups representing coastal, inland and Great Lakes shipping interests.

capitol0816.jpgAfter thanking the appropriators for funding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 2017 navigation programs at a total of $2.604 billion, the groups called for funding the Corps' programs at $2.9 billion in 2018 to better prepare for freight movements by water.

Here is a breakdown of that funding request.

While state DOTs are closely associated with building and maintaining highways, many of them have responsibilities to support inland and coastal ports. In addition, since moving more of the nation's cargoes by water means less of it needs to move in regional or cross-country trucks, all states could benefit when waterborne commerce translates into less wear and tear on highways and fewer cargo trucks taking up space on congested roads.

"Federal investments in navigation-related infrastructure are an essential and effective utilization of limited resources," the letter said. "These investments pay dividends through increased trade and international competitiveness, sustainable job creation and federal, state and local tax revenues."

That $2.9 billion, they said, would allow lawmakers to hit the target Congress set in water projects authorizing legislation for the coming year's use of harbor maintenance tax receipts for qualifying channel dredging work. It would also fully spend Inland Waterway Trust Fund revenue, they wrote, and put the Corps' navigation project planning studies on course to meet the schedule in 2014 water projects legislation.

The groups sent the letter before the White House issued President Trump's 2018 budget proposal, which does not call for the same levels of investment in navigation programs. Trump proposed instead a cut in the Corps of Engineers' overall budget, and spending about $2.098 billion to support commercial navigation.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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