Big news out of the US this week on the transportation front: a Senate plan to fund federal highway and rail transportation projects for three years advanced on a procedural vote on Wednesday, overcoming a roadblock to begin debate on the legislation. The legislation is expected to dominate Senate debate into next week but would represent the first multi-year US surface transportation bill in a decade, if it succeeds.
US Highway Bill
Republicans and Democrats are working against a July 31 deadline to keep the national Highway Trust Fund from running out of money, and would have to complete their work quickly to send a measure on to the House of Representatives and ultimately the White House for the President’s signature. The Senate legislation also faces a hard sell in the House, where lawmakers produced a US$8.1 billion plan to fund infrastructure projects, but only into December.
For the past several years, Congress has taken to passing short-term extensions of the highway trust fund. They have passed a total of 33 short-term extensions: They keep the fund working, but Congress is going to secure a permanent funding source.
Meanwhile, bridges — like the one spanning busy Interstate 10 in Southern California that collapsed last weekend — will continue to fall into disrepair.
More than 3,100 truck drivers travel on I-10 between Coachella and Arizona each day, according to California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). These drivers are now being re-routed dozens of miles off-course, resulting in hours-long delays, said the LA Times Wednesday.
The six-year bill would fund programs using a series of offsets but only includes funding sources for the next three years. Democrats are unhappy about the source of the money; conservative Republicans are unhappy that it isn’t fully funded. Not to mention 2016 is an election year, when lawmakers start to have ballot boxes on the brain.
As for the bridge, a shipment that would usually take a day or less may now arrive in two days, said R.J. Cervantes, director of legislative affairs for the 1,500-carrier members California Trucking Assn, said LA Times.
Delays will show up in shipment costs. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, and when they are rerouted several hundred miles, those costs increase, Tony Bradley, president and chief executive of the Arizona Trucking Assn. said.
The American Transportation Research Institute, whose estimates are higher than Caltrans’, said 8,000 trucks travel along the 50-mile I-10 closure each day, based on data from the Federal Highway Administration.
Delays will show up in shipment costs. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, and when they are rerouted several hundred miles, those costs increase, said Cervantes to LA Times.
Canada and US Railways: Wood Products
The volume of rail freight carried in Canada totalled 30.5 million tonnes in April, up 1.7 per cent from the same month last year, according to Statistics Canada June 26.
Freight originating in Canada and destined within Canada and to other parts of the world rose 2.5 per cent to 27.1 million metric tonnes. These shipments are composed of non-intermodal freight and intermodal freight.
Freight traffic received from the United States decreased 4.6 per cent to 3.3 million metric tonnes.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) Wednesday reported US rail traffic for the week ending July 18, 2015 totalled 551,181 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.8 per cent compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ending July 18, 2015 were 277,331 carloads, down 7.3 per cent compared with the same week in 2014, while US weekly intermodal volume was 273,850 containers and trailers, up 2.3 per cent compared to 2014.
For the first 28 weeks of 2015, US railroads reported cumulative volume of 7,730,662 carloads, down 4.1 per cent from the same point last year; and 7,396,497 intermodal units, up 2.6 per cent from last year. Total combined US traffic for the first 28 weeks of 2015 was 15,127,159 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 0.9 per cent compared to last year.