Greater Spokane Incorporated is pleased with the passage of the highway bill – Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST). This five-year legislation will work to improve the nation’s transportation structure including roads, bridges, transit systems, and the rail network. The act includes funding for multimodal freight projects that will benefit the greater-Spokane region which is vital to our area’s growth as a major inland freight hub; Spokane County businesses export roughly $800 million in goods annually.
GSI has been supportive of the passage of a nationwide transportation bill for many years and has advocated for it on the GSI priority federal agenda. This bill will bring Washington state $3.5 billion over five years, which will provide funds for many projects in our region. The passage of this transportation bill happened through a collaboration of Spokane regional transportation stakeholders like GSI who want to make roads and modes of transportation safer and more reliable for our community members.
With better roads and rail systems Spokane regional businesses will be able to move goods and products much more efficiently. The bill will also increase funding for public transportation by 89% over the life of the bill, and will refocus existing funds into National Highway Freight and Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects programs.
FAST has also created a pilot program to allow for commercial drivers under the age of 21. Drivers 18-21 will not be allowed to transport passengers or hazardous cargo, but this change is an important start to addressing the nation’s dire need for commercial drivers in the trucking and agriculture sectors.
FAST includes the reauthorization of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, which serves as an independent federal agency that fills gaps in private export finance in order to bolster U.S. job growth at no cost to American taxpayers. Ex-Im provides trade financing solutions – including export credit insurance, working capital guarantees, and guarantees of commercial loans to foreign buyers – to empower exporters of U.S. goods and services. In 2014 alone, 10 eastern Washington companies used Ex-Im to export $11 million worth of product. Local companies including SCAFCO, Commercial Creamery, Colmac Coil, Landmark Turf & Native Seed, White’s Boots, Garco Building Systems and Itron have all made use of Ex-Im products to support their foreign sales.
On December 3 the Senate and House overwhelmingly supported FAST with a 83-15 vote in the Senate and 359-65 in the House. GSI would like to recognize our federal delegation for their support:
- Senator Patty Murray (D)
- Senator Maria Cantwell (D)
- Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (5th District – R)
- Representative Dan Newhouse (4th District – R)
- Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (3rd District – R)
- Representative David Reichert (8th District – R)
- Representative Denny Heck (10th District – D)
- Representative Suzan DelBene (1st District – D)
- Representative Rick Larsen (2nd District – D)
- Representative Adam Smith (9th District – D)
- Representative Jim McDermott (7th District – D)
- Representative Derek Kilmer (6th District – D)