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U.S. Reps. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) on Feb. 12 introduced the National Freight Network Trust Fund Act of 2015 (H.R. 935), which would provide a guaranteed, dedicated funding stream for improvements to rail lines and roads used to move goods to and from ports.The bill proposes to create a National Freight Network Trust Fund, into which 5 percent of all import duties collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry would be deposited. The funds could only be spent on freight transportation projects. The import duties would amount to about $2 billion each year based on current import rates."Funding the nation’s freight network is essential to the economy of my district around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and also to the national economy, and I am happy we have found a way to do this without imposing new costs on businesses or taxpayers," said Hahn in a press release. "This legislation instead dedicates a small percentage of funds already collected as freight enters the nation to improve and modernize the freight network."Projects that could be funded by grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation include those that are part of the national freight network or a regional or state transportation plan; involve rail lines and roads that connect to a port or on-dock rail facility; and address high freight volume rail corridors or roadways. The bill would provide transparency by requiring applicants who fail to be selected for a grant to provide feedback based on selection criteria, the representatives said."Our nation’s transportation infrastructure is not keeping up with our competitors worldwide," said Poe. "The National Freight Network Trust Fund Act of 2015 will create a dedicated funding stream for the road and rail infrastructure that leads to and from our nation’s ports. This transportation infrastructure is vital to keeping America competitive and our ports operating efficiently." Hahn introduced similar legislation that was co-sponsored by 40 representatives in the 113th Congress. Several national organizations — including the American Association of Ports Authorities — have endorsed H.R. 935, which was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill currently has 11 co-sponsors.
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