On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act”. Overall, the FAST Act largely maintains current MAP-21 program structures and funding shares between highways and transit. It is a down payment for building a 21st century transportation system. These challenges include improving safety, maintaining infrastructure condition, reducing traffic congestion, improving efficiency of the system and freight movement, protecting the environment, and reducing delays in project delivery.
Significant Freight Provisions
The FAST Act includes a number of provisions to improve the condition and performance of the national freight network and support investment in freight-related surface transportation projects. Specifically, the FAST Act provisions are as follows:
- Establishes a National Multimodal Freight Policy that includes national goals to guide decision-making.
- Requires the Development of a National Freight Strategic Plan to implement the goals of the new National Multimodal Freight Policy. The National Freight Strategic Plan will address the conditions and performance of the multimodal freight system, identify strategies and best practices to improve intermodal connectivity and performance of the national freight system, and mitigate the impacts of freight movement on communities.
- Creates a new discretionary freight-focused grant program that will invest $4.5 billion over 5 years. This new program allows States, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), local governments, tribal governments, special purpose districts and public authorities (including port authorities), and other parties to apply for funding to complete projects that improve safety and hold the greatest promise to eliminate freight bottlenecks and improve critical freight movements.
- Establishes a National Highway Freight Program. The Act provides $6.3 billion in formula funds over five years for States to invest in freight projects on the National Highway Freight Network. Up to 10 percent of these funds may be used for intermodal projects.
- Includes new authorities and requirements to improve project delivery and facilitate innovative finance. The FAST Act includes provisions intended to reduce the time it takes to break ground on new freight transportation projects, including by promoting best contracting practices and innovating financing and funding opportunities and by reducing uncertainty and delays with respect to environmental reviews and permitting.
- Collects performance measures for leading U.S. maritime ports. The FAST Act requires the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) to collect and annually report performance measures for the nation’s top 25 ports, as measured by three methods (total tonnage, containers, and dry bulk tonnage).
The Florida Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) program also has freight-emphasis. The SIS was established to ensure that transportation dollars were invested in areas that supported the local economic generators such as the seaport and the airport and the roadway facilities that connect them. The 2040 Miami-Dade Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) Update embraced freight movement with the inclusion of a freight element that includes projects that focus on improving freight movement along major corridors, and specifically, in to and out of Miami International Airport (MIA) and Port Miami. Miami-Dade County is committed to providing a transportation system that enhances the efficiency of freight movement. This commitment is the primary focus of the Freight Transportation Advisory Committee (FTAC). FTAC’s membership includes representatives from the freight, logistics, shipping, trucking, warehousing, and intermodal industries. In addition, the Miami-Dade Police Department has joined to educate on Cargo Theft information from Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, FTAC is charged with advising the MPO Governing Board on freight movement and truck traffic needs. FTAC serves as advisors on technical studies, recommends special studies, and reviews and comments on proposed projects that impact the freight movement community.
A major freight related project will serve the Doral Area with the construction of Phase II of the 25 Street Viaduct, which will expedite truck movements and retain economic competitiveness of county and regional freight-associated activities. Additional improvements to roadways in several other areas of Miami-Dade address projected traffic flow deficiencies and diminished levels of service; a number of these improvements are recommended for roads that serve the industrial areas of Miami-Dade County.
Several large projects, the reconstruction of the SR 836/826 interchange, the construction of a new ramp in the Golden Glades Interchange to connect eastbound SR 826 and northbound I-95, and work along Okeechobee Rd. will have major impacts on the freight community. Cross-referencing these highway projects as freight projects will help with the recognition that the movement of freight must be maintained during the construction of these projects.