Your Connection to the

Ports-to-Plains Region

May 3, 2016

Volume Number 14
Issue Number 9

We hear people grumbling and complaining about Washington all the time, but the Ports-to-Plains Alliance is on quite a roll with good news from the nation’s capital. The Federal Highway Administration released their guidance for state departments of transportation to designate Critical Rural Freight Corridors. While that may seem to be inside baseball, and it did not dominate the airwaves, it is a major accomplishment. It was a top focus for Ports-to-Plains board and staff visits with congressional offices during our Washington Fly-In two weeks ago, as well as an earlier staff trip with meetings with FHWA officials and congressional offices. This news comes on the heels of passage of a long term federal highway funding bill last December which included many of the Alliance’s policy priorities.

Achievements in Washington are another example of the power of the Alliance members working together to be an effective voice for rural communities, as well as the value of your membership in Ports-to-Plains. It would be easy to ignore any one of our members on their own, but representing the interests of more than 275 communities across ten states and even three countries greatly increases our effectiveness. Thanks for your continued support!

Michael Reeves, President

Ports-to-Plains Top 5

Ports-to-Plains Alliance Washington DC Fly-in

Fifteen representatives of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance met with members of the Federal delegation and/or their staff in eighteen House offices and seventeen Senate offices on April 20-21.

Wayne Anderson (NE)
Coby Beckner (NM)
Gary Beedy (CO)
Brad Bekkedahl (ND)
Chris Blackwell (ND)
Deb Cottier (NE)
Charlotte Farmer (TX)
Annie Folck (NE)
John Friess (TX)
Beverly Haggard (CO)
Joe Kiely (CO)
Cal Klewin (ND)
Michael Reeves (TX)
Jack Schenendorf (DC)
Cathy Shull (CO)

The Alliance’s messaging was focused on thanking Congress for passage of a long-term transportation reauthorization bill. Two items addressed regarding the FAST Act were the reality that one of its failures was fixing the Highway Trust Fund and the need for guidance on Critical Rural Freight Corridors. The FAST Act did not provide the permanent revenue solution necessary to maintain current levels of federal highway investments, much less increased investment. When the FAST Act transfer of $70 billion from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund is exhausted on September 30, 2020, the program will face a projected $19 billion-and-growing annual revenue shortfall. We reminded our congressional delegation that a top priority of the Alliance is for Congress to permanently address this shortfall as soon as possible as part of tax reform or other revenue-related measure.

The Alliance views of the Critical Rural Freight Corridor (CRFC) program was a key opportunity to access both long-term freight planning and funding program. With Congress’ emphasis on connecting agriculture and energy development, our corridors certainly seem to fit Congress’ intent for CRFC. As of these congressional meetings, USDOT/FHWA had not provided guidance for states on the process of designating corridors. Note in the article below that USDOT/FHWA issued the guidance on April 27th.

The Alliance appreciates the congressional offices which took the time to meet with our members.

U.S. House of Representative Offices

Rep. Diana DeGette (CO)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO)
Rep. Jared Polis (CO)
Rep. Scott Tipton (CO)
Rep. Ken Buck (CO)
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS)
Rep. Ryan Zinke (MT)
Rep. Brad Ashford (NE)
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE)
Rep. Adrian Smith (NE)
Rep. Ben Lujan (NM)
Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND)
Rep. Frank Lucas (OK)
Rep. Kristi Noem (SD)
Rep. Mike Conaway (TX)
Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX)
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX)
Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX)

U.S. Senate Offices

Sen. Michael Bennett (CO)
Sen. Cory Gardner (CO)
Sen. Jerry Moran (KS)
Sen. Pat Roberts (KS)
Sen. Steve Daines (MT)
Sen. Deb Fischer (NE)
Sen. Ben Sasse (NE)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
Sen. John Hoeven (ND)
Sen. Matt Heinrich (NM)
Sen. Tom Udall (NM)
Sen. James Inhofe (OK)
Sen. James Lankford (OK)
Sen. John Thune (SD)
Sen. John Cornyn (TX)
Sen. Ted Cruz (TX)
Sen. Mike Enzi (WY)

Handouts can be downloaded below:

Comparison between FAST Act and Ports-to-Plains Alliance Federal Recommendations

Congressional Meeting Talking Points

FHWA releases Rural Freight Corridor Guideline

The Federal Highway Administration released guidelines this week for state departments of transportation to designate and certify Critical Rural Freight Corridors as part of a larger freight program that was included in the federal transportation authorization bill that was signed into law in December.

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance has pressed hard for FHWA to issue the guidelines. Without the guidance from FHWA, corridors like those serving primarily rural areas of the Ports-to-Plains region would not be eligible for or have a lower priority for key planning programs and funding programs within the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

By providing the guidance, FHWA paved the way for state departments of transportation to designate portions of the Ports-to-Plains, Heartland Expressway and Theodore Roosevelt Expressway as Critical Rural Freight Corridors. The Alliance will be working with the planning efforts of state departments of transportation to urge designation and certification of key corridor sections across the region. States can designate up to the greater of 150 miles or 20% of the Primary Highway Freight System roads as Critical Rural Freight Corridors.

Segments that are designated and certified by the state departments of transportation become eligible for freight funding sources including the National Highway Freight Program which provides formula funds for each state to improve freight movement. It can also improve the chances of competing for FASTLANE discretionary grants under the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program.

From a planning viewpoint, designated and certified Critical Rural Freight Corridors are added to the National Highway Freight Network and are eligible for inclusion in the National Multimodal Freight Network. The National Multimodal Freight Network will be finalized by December 4, 2016 which makes immediate action to designate and certify important.

“This was a top priority for the Ports-to-Plains Alliance,” said Ports-to-Plains Alliance President Michael Reeves. “Our staff and board members met with FHWA staff as well as our congressional delegation and their staffs to let them know how critical this program is to rural economic competitiveness.”

“We realize that the entire Ports-to-Plains Corridor will not be designated on the Critical Rural Freight Corridor Network, but we know that we have several segments that will be competitive. The key for us was to have the FHWA Guidelines so that the state DOT’s can make those designations and we can compete,” said Reeves. 

Senate Field Hearing on Keeping Goods Moving In America's Heartland

On Monday, May 2, 2016 the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a field hearing on “entitled "Keeping Goods Moving in America's Heartland" in Scottsbluff, NE. The field hearing was focused on rural transportation and intermodal freight policy. The recently-enacted FAST Act included provisions to improve our nation's infrastructure and establish a strategic national freight policy. Witnesses were invited to testify on the impact of freight transportation to rural economies, ways to strengthen our local and regional transportation networks, and the implementation of the FAST Act.

Deb Cottier, the Executive Director of Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation in Chadron, NE, was invited to present by Senator John Thune of South Dakota. Ms. Cottier serves on the Board of Directors of the Heartland Expressway Association and ably represented her local organization, the Heartland Expressway and the Ports-to-Plains Alliance. Her primary three points were:

  • The future prosperity of America’s Heartland depends on four-laning critical rural freight corridors like the Ports-to-Plains Alliance Corridor

  • Upgrading critical rural freight corridors--especially multi-state corridors--requires a strong federal partner--both in terms of leadership and resources. States and localities cannot do the job alone.

  • New freight programs in the FAST Act are a big step forward but they will require careful oversight to ensure that adequate resources are made available to upgrade critical rural freight corridors.

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance would like to thank Senator Deb Fisher of Nebraska, the sub-committee chairwoman for holding this important hearing and Deb Cottier and the Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation for representing not only her organization and community, but the Heartland Expressway and the Ports-to-Plains Alliance with her testimony and statement.

In addition to the five minute presentation, Ms. Cottier submitted an expanded statement for the record that gave additional background for consideration by the sub-committee.

Complete Statement of Deb Cottier

Complete information including opening statements and the testimony of all the witnesses will be available here

FHWA Concludes MAP-21 Truck Size and Weight Limits Study with Recommendations for More Research

The Federal Highway Administration's truck size and weight limits study was delivered to Congress April 14, concluding more than three years of work on a report that was required by the 2012 MAP-21 surface transportation bill.

The issue of truck size and weight has been controversial for some time as advocates of larger vehicles point to greater efficiency that comes with larger loads. Opponents argue that larger and heavier trucks cause greater wear on infrastructure like roads and bridges and present greater safety concerns for truck operators and other road users.

FHWA's report does not take a side in the debate, instead gathering data and identifying gaps where more data could help inform future policy decisions.

"Predictably, in a study in which there are so many components that cover different topics, there is no single bottom-line finding," the report states. "One cannot responsibly take the figures derived from the discrete study areas and come up with a summary result that would yield a clear policy decision."

However, FHWA cited the use of its Freight Analysis Framework data set, and improved computer models, as helping advance the current understanding of how truck size and weight impacts. In addition to the FHWA data, the study used pavement and bridge impact modeling software – AASHTOWare Pavement ME Design and AASHTOWare Bridge Rating, respectively – to help complete its technical report. Read on…

Link to Compete Report

U.S. cities should not abandon trade

The steep decline of manufacturing jobs, stagnant wages, and rising anger among working class voters about their economic future has sparked a growing skepticism about globalization, launching the country into a weeks-long back and forth about the merits of trade for the U.S. economy.

Nevertheless, U.S. city and regional leaders should not back down on trade and global engagement. The global economy is hyperintegrated—enabled by technology, air and freight networks, and complex supply chains more widespread and faster growing than new trade agreements. Local leaders have a responsibility to help their firms and workers navigate, not ignore, the benefits and drawbacks inherent in globalization. They should continue to embrace a bottom-up competitiveness agenda that includes helping firms and institutions tap global demand and investment while arming workers with the skills to adjust to new realities.

Trade is typically discussed at the national level, but its origins and impacts are intensely local. The 100 largest metro areas—places such as Detroit, Houston, and Wichita—are at the epicenter of the global economy. Positively, these metro economies generate the bulk of the nation’s exports (86 percent), attract the vast majority of jobs from foreign direct investment (74 percent), and draw most of the foreign students investing in an American education (85 percent). These benefits result from unique pools of suppliers and skilled labor, global infrastructure networks, and higher education institutions that strengthen core industries and support jobs, often good jobs that offer a wage premium for workers. Read on…

Upcoming Events

July 20-21 - Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board Meeting in Lubbock, TX

 Sept. 13 - Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board Meeting in San Angelo, TX

 Sept 13-15 - 19th Ports-to-Plains Alliance Conference in San Angelo, TX  

 Ports-to-Plains Alliance Staff

Michael Reeves
5401 N MLK Blvd. #395
Lubbock, TX 79403
P: 806-775-2338
F: 806-775-3981

Duffy Hinkle
Vice President of Membership & Marketing
5401 N MLK Blvd. #395
Lubbock, TX 79403
P: 806-775-3373
F: 806-775-3981

Fernando Madero
Vice President of Mexico Operations
Jazmines 123, Torreon Jardin
Torreon, Mexico
P: 011 52 (871) 120 1030

Joe Kiely
Vice President of Operations
PO Box 9
Limon, CO 80828
P: 303-586-1787
F: 719-775-9073

Jeri Strong
Executive Assistant
Ports-To-Plains Alliance
5401 N. MLK Blvd. Ste. 395
Lubbock, TX 79403
P: 806-775-3369

Cal Klewin
Executive Director
Theodore Roosevelt Expressway
PO 1306 22 E Broadway
Williston, ND 58802
P: 701-577-8110

Deb Cottier
Board of Directors
Heartland Expressway Association
706 West Third St.
Chadron, NE 69337
P: 308-432-4032

Elvira Smid
Executive Director
Eastern Alberta T