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US House Committee Approves Transportation Bill to Improve Freight Movement

The U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved a long-term transportation bill that could prevent port pileups like the sector saw on the West Coast.

A major aim of the Surface Transportation and Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 3819) as the bill is better known, is to “promote innovation to make the system and programs work better.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) worked on the bill and applauded its move forward in a statement last week.

“Retailers are among the nation’s largest shippers, moving hundreds of billions of dollars worth of merchandise through the nation’s ports and on railroads and highways each year,” senior vice president for government relations David French. “Infrastructure investments must keep up with the expected future demand for freight movement. The condition of the transportation system and its ability to handle cargo quickly and efficiently are vital to retailers’ businesses, and we urge Congress to swiftly pass a long-term reauthorization bill.”

NRF also endeavored to include a provision in the bill that would avert a shutdown of the American rail network, extending the deadline for Positive Train Control—an automatic braking technology Congress said had to be in place by the end of this year—for three years. The extension was also approved as the complex technology could have caused those unable to implement it by the deadline to shutdown during the critical year-end shipping season.

“Freight rail is an integral part of a retailers’ business,” French said. “Retailers are now in the final phases of their peak shipping season for holiday merchandise. Any shutdown or slowdown of the freight rail system will have wide-ranging impacts on retailers and other freight rail customers.”

The House will soon vote on the bill and then engage with the Senate on its highway bill to settle on a final measure.