Rep. Hahn wants more policy focus on ports.
Members of the congressional PORTS Caucus are scheduled to meet with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood next month to press the connection between port investment and economic growth, Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., told a pro-freight audience last week at the annual conference of the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors on Capitol Hill.
The PORTS Caucus, founded by Hahn last fall, has about 65 members.
"We really want to see the president talk about jobs and ports in the same sentence," she said of President Obama's ongoing efforts to push legislation that would lead to more private sector job creation.
Lawmakers who understand the importance of ports want the government to develop a national freight policy, something that has been talked about for years in transportation circles without much progress.
Hahn sent a letter on May 9 to the House and Senate conference committee tasked with negotiating a two-year surface transportation authorization bill in which she laid out the need to instruct the DOT to move ahead on a national freight policy.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is the conference committee chairman. The Senate passed a two-year bill and the House a three-month extension of the existing program, but parts of a multi-year bill in the House that has wide support but never reached the floor for a final vote may also be considered. - Eric Kulisch
Powerful shoulders needed to move transport bill.
Politics and lack of available revenue continue to make it difficult for Congress to pass a long-term reauthorization of federal transportation programs, the largest of which are devoted to funneling aid to states to upgrade and maintain the nation's highway and transit systems.
The Democratic-led Senate has passed a two-year, $109 billion bill. The House, controlled by Republicans, passed a three-month extension to continue existing operations through the end of the fiscal year. It also has a five-year bill in its back pocket that many favor.
The Republicans complain that the Senate bill doesn't do enough to reform existing programs to get projects started faster and focus spending on national priorities. They also question how the Senate bill will cover the shortfall between the spending commitment and the user fees in the Highway Trust Fund. Democrats say the money comes from legitimate savings elsewhere in the budget.
It's almost three years since the last surface transportation bill expired, leaving states, contractors and other stakeholders in a constant state of uncertainty about how to plan for large projects while short-term extensions get passed at the last minute.
Fixing the situation is a tall order, perhaps worthy of a super hero, Jeff Davis, a legislative guru who publishes Transportation Weekly
, said during the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors' annual meeting last week.
Davis said he realized 20 minutes earlier that Kevin Sorbo, the actor who played Hercules in the low-budget TV show "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," was standing next to him in the security line at one of the entrances to the Senate Russell Office Building, where the event took place.
"I didn't know what he was doing here. But I started thinking about the legendary labors of Hercules - taking the golden apple of the Hesperides [and so on]. And I thought if getting a surface transportation reauthorization that actually fixed the highway trust fund and made it perfectly solvent was one of the labors of Hercules, could he have done it?
"I'm not 100 percent sure he could have," he said. - Eric Kulisch
The International Propeller Club of the United States is holding its annual convention in New Orleans this October. In a letter to prospective guests and sponsors promoting the event, the group pointed out that the educational sessions will be chaired by New Orleans Port Director Gary Lagrange. His name is actually spelled LaGrange. - Eric Kulisch