Transportation & Infrastructure
Anyone who has driven on our interstate system knows what they can expect: congestion, delays, and poor road conditions. The produce industry is highly dependent upon an efficient transportation system, from trucking, rail and ocean shipping, to ports and border control facilities. New funding of transportation infrastructure could provide meaningful support to the industry in increased efficiency and lower costs. From city streets to rural highways, the nation’s roads and bridges are in serious disrepair. This takes a toll on the produce industry through unreliable delivery times and increased fleet maintenance costs. In addition to structural deterioration, traffic congestion costs both time and money, and slows productivity.
While the United States has more than 300 commercial harbors and more than 600 smaller harbors, the top 10 port complexes handle a majority of cargo volume and international vessel calls. Port congestion exacerbates first- and last-mile delays in freight movements, driving up the cost of goods in both the global marketplace and produce supply chains in the United States. The gap between current spending and what is needed to revitalize U.S. infrastructure totals more than $1 trillion—a staggering sum.
United Fresh will continue to work with our industry counterparts in coalitions such as the Rural Infrastructure Coalition and the Agriculture Transportation Coalition to advocate for policies that make our nation’s infrastructure more efficient, help our industry improve current infrastructure systems, and to craft policies that will help America move more productively in the future. Toward that end, an effective, comprehensive transportation and infrastructure reform proposal that maximizes the ability of fresh fruit and vegetable providers to get their commodities to the marketplace must address the following components:
- Roads and Bridges: The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) supports state and local investments to ease traffic congestion on highways, fix bridges, improve transit systems and make important safety improvements. United Fresh supports reinvestment in the HTF and other support for transportation infrastructure. The HTF is funded primarily through the federal gas tax. In the past, Congress raised the gas tax to maintain critical infrastructure investments. But the last increase was in 1993, and the rate was not indexed to inflation, meaning the purchasing power of this revenue has declined by 40 percent since 1993.
- Ports: With an estimated $15 billion investment needed for ports and waterways, the federal government needs to take an expedited approach to deepen ports, support refrigerated port facilities and enhance intermodal connections.
- Railway systems: United Fresh supports investment in the railway system that would support increased distribution of produce commodities.
- Agricultural Facilities in the Public Interest – United Fresh will make the case for investment in wholesale markets and border facilities as ways to enhance the U.S. economy. This could result in some portion of investment, and/or matching funds, for industry projects.
- Expedited Environmental Review: While not direct funding, the U.S. could promote the expediency of infrastructure project reviews while ensuring environmental protections. Shortening the average time for approval on transportation projects would go a long way in helping realize the benefits of infrastructure investments. Currently, environmental review approvals take an average of six years for major highway projects.
Key Facts on Transportation in the U.S.
- 65% of major roads in the United States are rated “less than good condition.”
- U.S. businesses overall are estimated to pay $27 billion in additional freight costs every year because of poor road conditions.
- In 2014, Americans in urban areas spent 6.9 billion hours of extra time on the nation’s roads—time that could have been better spent contributing to the economy.
- Traffic also delays the trucking industry that ships freight for the produce industry, adding $49.6 billion to operational costs.