By Brandon Ross
The Trump administration’s plan to use public-private partnerships as part of its $1 trillion infrastructure proposal won’t work for funding the country’s inland waterways system, a maritime group said.
Private investors need to see returns for public-private partnerships to be successful, Michael J. Toohey, president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc., told reporters at a June 1 media briefing in Washington. A common method to recoup private funding for highways is charging tolls, he said. But a similar user-fee approach wouldn’t work for the inland waterways system that is comprised of locks and dams, Toohey said, citing failed industry tests.
“In order to get the private sector to invest [in waterways infrastructure], you’re going to have to charge other beneficiaries,” Toohey, whose group represents barge operators, said. He cited recreational boaters as users of the system’s waterways.
Since private investment won’t work, according to Toohey, the federal government must continue paying at least half of the money to maintain and improve the inland waterways system, he said. The current funding structure is a 50/50 cost-split between commercial users of the waterways and the federal government.
The group lambasted the administration’s recent budget proposal for suggesting that commercial inland waterway operators pay double to increase the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The fund is used for upkeep, construction, and other inland waterway projects.
The Office and Management and Budget’s FY 2018 budget proposal called for $108 million in new revenue to be generated yearly by the trust fund. The request drew the ire of the waterways council because it called for commercial users to pay more into the trust fund while simultaneously cutting the government’s appropriations for the inland waterways.
“Inland waterways operators should not be looked upon to pay DOUBLE what we pay now in our current user fee/fuel tax when the Administration proposes to spend only 12.3% in FY 2018 of the amount that we are generating into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund,” Debra Calhoun, the council’s senior vice president, told Bloomberg BNA in a June 1 email. “Commercial operators are just one of many waterways beneficiaries, among them recreational boaters that put as much, if not more, wear-and-tear on the infrastructure.”
Calhoun recently told Bloomberg BNA the administration’s proposed user fee would result in higher shipping prices that would get passed along to consumers. Communities along the Mississippi River—those that voted heavily for President Donald Trump—would likely be hit hardest by the fees, she said.
The Mississippi plays a large role in international trade because it is the central artery of a sprawling river system and drains into the Gulf of Mexico. Bustling ports in Louisiana line the river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Ross in Washington at bRoss@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)