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Aug.22, 2016

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION 48 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE AUGUST 22.2016 By Reynolds Hutchins U.S. FREIGHT PROJECTS this year received their lowest share of grants in the eight years of the federal TIGER infrastructure modernization program, according to a Washington, D.C.-based group represent- ing freight interests. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on July 29 announced approximately $138 million in federal grant money for freight-related projects nationwide, just more than a quarter of the total $500 mil- lion available. The projects awarded grant dollars include urban and rural freight rail improve- ments on the East and West coasts, upgrades to port terminals in the Pacific Northwest, and highway and rail projects benefiting freight and passenger transportation. The news lef t some in the freight industry feeling disappointed. "Here's the takeaway: At $138 million, the amount of funding going toward freight-related proj- ects is only 27 percent of the awards. In prior years, the range has gone from as much as 53 percent to 33 percent, but never dropped as low as 27 percent," Leslie Blakey, presi- dent of the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors, a public-private group comprising 60 organizations, told The Jour- nal of Commerce. Moreover, she added, that $138 million goes toward only 12 projects, when in previ- ous years the number of projects benefiting from federal grants ranged from 17 to 25. Last year, projects aimed at improving freight movement under TIGER — or the Transportation Investment Investment Generating Economic Recovery — pro- gram received more than 40 percent of the available grants, according to the coalition. In that same round of funding, five ports received approximately $44.3 million in TIGER grants, around 9 percent of total funding. It's hard to say why so few projects ben- efited from so few dollars this year. The Department of Transportation does not release the list of applicants for TIGER grants. There is, however, one hypothesis: "One thing that was different this year and may have had some effect is there was the FAST- LANE grant awards, and that is a new grant program," Blakey said. The DOT earlier in July announced the f irst recipients of money through that program, which targets transporta- tion infrastructure, established under the most recent highway bill, the 2015 FAST Act. The Georgia Ports Authority and the Massachusetts Port Authority received part of the nearly $800 million doled out. Like TIGER, however, it wasn't just freight-related projects that were allowed to apply and win grant money through the FASTLANE program, Blakey said. "DOT encouraged freight projects to apply both for FASTLANE and for TIGER," she said, adding that she hoped the DOT did not shortchange freight-related projects simply because those projects could now apply for aid under two programs. TIGER'S MEOW Freight projects win record low share of the $500 million available for infrastructure-related upgrades IT'S HARD TO SAY WHY SO FEW PROJECTS BENEFITED FROM SO FEW DOLLARS THIS YEAR.

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