Waterways Council CEO critical of White House infrastructure plan

Mike Toohey, CEO of Waterways Council, Inc., said several elements of President Donald Trump’s plan, including the proposed decrease of federal dollars, will be “non-starters” in terms of gaining industry support.

Waterways Council CEO critical of White House infrastructure plan

Mike Toohey, CEO of Waterways Council, Inc., said several elements of President Donald Trump’s plan, including the proposed decrease of federal dollars, will be “non-starters” in terms of gaining industry support.

Waterways Council CEO critical of White House infrastructure plan

Mike Toohey, CEO of Waterways Council, Inc., said several elements of President Donald Trump’s plan, including the proposed decrease of federal dollars, will be “non-starters” in terms of gaining industry support.

 
Although President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address last month that waterways would be a key part of his national infrastructure initiative, Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) CEO Mike Toohey said Tuesday implementation of the plan would spur more truck and rail shipping, even as barges for inland shipping make the U.S. agriculturally cost-competitive with other countries.
    Compared with a batch of soybeans shipped to China from Brazil, which utilizes farm-to-market roads more frequently than the U.S., a batch of soybeans shipped to China from Iowa is about $35 cheaper per ton, aided by the availability of barges in the U.S., Toohey noted during the council’s annual press briefing, citing information provided by the House Transportation Committee.
    During the briefing, held at the National Press Club in Washington, Toohey said his industry won’t accept inland waterway tolls and other user fees and taxes Trump’s plan is proposing on top of the existing $0.29 user fee assessed on fuels used on U.S. inland waterways, funds that flow into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF).
    The IWTF finances 50 percent of U.S. inland waterway capital improvement projects.
    The proposed tolls would be determined by the investor or owner/operator of the toll facility, Toohey said.
   “It would remove the operation and maintenance (O&M) function from the federal government, and put that on the users of the system,” he said. “We feel that provides inadequate protection of the public interest, especially when you have an unfettered ability to charge a total.”
    Further, the tolls will drive traffic away from the competitive waterways system, meaning potentially “dire consequences” for the barge industry, Toohey said.
    “We would urge the administration to come forth with economic analysis to assuage our concerns, to show us whether tolls can be reasonable, and whether taking on O&M can be affordable and still keep the waterways viable.”
    Notwithstanding Trump’s infrastructure plan, WCI is urging that any resulting congressional legislation not impose tolls or lockage fees on the U.S. inland waterways transportation system, and that it treats O&M for waterways as a fully federal responsibility, according to briefing slides presented during the address.
    WCI is also pushing Congress to change the standard federal cost-share ratio for waterway capital improvement projects from 50 percent federal funding/50 percent other funding, to 75 percent federal funding/25 percent other funding, Toohey said.
   It is hoped that could be achieved either in the expected broad infrastructure bill or in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018, which the House could start marking up in April, he said.
    But there remains widespread opposition in the waterways industry to Trump’s infrastructure proposal, and it’ll be a “herculean” task to go through debates with up to a dozen congressional committees that would have a stake in any overarching national infrastructure bill, Toohey mentioned.
    Furthermore, there’s “a lot of anger” between lawmakers that could hinder advancement of any large infrastructure package, he said.
    “And there’s an opportunity for the minority party to take over Congress,” Toohey added. “So why would it be in their interest to move a win for the Republican-controlled Congress and the Republican President? So you’ve got a lot of dynamics in there about moving the infrastructure bill.”
Since the signing of the new six-year contract, I have repeatedly told my members that we have to make good on our pledge to increase container moves to over 30 an hour — and maybe even more in some ports. In a few weeks, I will be gathering my executive council for meetings in Tampa, Florida, and I will hammer this point to them again. We must deliver on this contract. And we will!
Estes Express Lines is donating $1 million to 20 organizations chosen by employees. The checks, ranging from $15,000 to more than $100,000, are making their way across the U.S. in Estes trucks to reach such charitable groups as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, American Cancer Society, Wounded Warrior Project, Toys for Tots, Make-A-Wish and Alzheimer’s Association.
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Waterways Council CEO critical of White House infrastructure plan

Mike Toohey, CEO of Waterways Council, Inc., said several elements of President Donald Trump’s plan, including the proposed decrease of federal dollars, will be “non-starters” in terms of gaining industry support.

By Brian Bradley on Feb 28, 2018AmericanShipper.com

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Waterways Council CEO critical of White House infrastructure plan

Mike Toohey, CEO of Waterways Council, Inc., said several elements of President Donald Trump’s plan, including the proposed decrease of federal dollars, will be “non-starters” in terms of gaining industry support.

By Brian Bradley on Feb 28, 2018AmericanShipper.com