FAST Reactions: A Quick Review of the Freight Elements of the FAST Act

freight

By now, we’ve all seen the news about the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act, which passed the House and Senate over the last few days and is being sent to the President for signature. This is great news for all of us involved in multimodal freight planning and a hearty congratulations goes out to all of those involved in making this happen. Here are my quick reactions to the freight-related elements of FAST:

  1. This is the most stable set of transportation funding we’ve had since 2005 and should give DOT and MPO freight planners the confidence to identify, evaluate, and implement large, long-term improvements, helping to avoid the fits and starts since the last major reauthorization.
  2. The freight program- both discretionary and formula based- is significant. But the requirement that DOTs complete statewide freight plans in order to be eligible for freight formula funding will increase pressure on those DOTs that haven’t completed comprehensive, multimodal freight plans in the last several years. It will be important for these states to get started on these plans quickly.
  3. The continued emphasis on performance management is a vote of confidence in this planning approach and will enhance accountability through transparency and regular progress reports. While no major changes are made to the performance management approach first laid out in MAP-21, the inclusion of economic development and port-related goals – and ultimately performance measures- further cements the critical link between freight investments and economic vitality.
  4. The proposed changes to the Surface Transportation and Transportation Alternatives Programs (STP and TAP) reflect the growing influence of cities and local governments. Understanding when and how these agencies should participate in funding freight improvements will represent a new challenge in many urban areas.

Clearly, this is an exciting time for freight planning- and the freight elements of FAST, particularly the stability of funding, will go a long way toward helping to advance freight planning, respond to industry concerns, and get freight improvements built.