Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced the National Multimodal Freight Network Improvement Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to include the Port of Hueneme and other ports with annual cargo value of $1 billion or more on the National Multimodal Freight Network (NMFN). The Network was established to strengthen economic competitiveness, reduce congestion and bottlenecks, and improve the safety, security, efficiency, and reliability of freight transportation. There is concern that the Port of Hueneme and other major ports will be excluded from the Network – contrary to original Congressional intent – if only cargo weight, and not value, are considered for inclusion.
“There are ports that are critical to our national economy, as well as our regional economy, that will be excluded from the Network – contrary to the original intent of Congress,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “Businesses of all shapes and sizes rely upon these ports for goods movement in their supply chains – especially for high-value perishable cargo that is unable to sustain long wait times at larger ports. For example, 800,000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables move through the Port of Hueneme to markets across the U.S. and Canada each year. We shouldn’t be prioritizing a port that moves two million tons of dirt over a port that moves hundreds of thousands of tons of fresh fruit and vegetables that feed our nation.”
“Currently, the NMFN fails to account for the economic scale of cargo throughput. By way of example, a one ton vehicle is much higher in value than ten tons of cement. The current NMFN structure only considers the weight,” said Kristin Decas, CEO & Port Director of the Port of Hueneme. “The fix put forth in Congresswoman Brownley’s legislation adds the value metric to the formula. This is important because it is the value that translates into jobs and prosperity for port communities and is core to NMFN designations. This type of economic impact merits a designation on the NMFN.”
“Not only is our Port the economic engine to our region, and one of California’s primary resources, it plays a vital role in our nation’s supply chain of essential products, including important military cargo,” said Jess Herrera, Oxnard Harbor District President. “The Port of Hueneme’s congestion free trade corridors and central coast location also provides a unique and strategic position when contingency or capacity issues face other Southern California Ports.”
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 established the National Multimodal Freight Network to highlight strategically important freight assets – including major highways, railways, waterways, airports, and ports. The law requires DOT to consider a variety of factors, including cargo value, when determining which ports should be included in the final network. However, Brownley is concerned that the White House Office of Management and Budget is planning to ignore the intent of the law and not permit DOT to add any ports based on the cargo value criteria – disregarding Congressional intent and ignoring the important role mid-sized ports play in our economy.
Brownley’s bill would require the Executive Branch to implement the law as originally intended by including ports with annual cargo value of $1 billion or more in the network. There are several ports across the United States that meet this threshold and are critical to the movement of goods, but have been excluded from the current network, including the Port of Hueneme (California) and the Port of Everett (Washington). The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors and the American Association of Port Authorities – key stakeholders – have also urged DOT to consider cargo value when creating the network.