A bill to help address congestion at U.S. ports was included in transportation legislation approved last week by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The “Ports Performance Act,” which the Commerce panel passed in late June, would require the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics to collect metrics of port marine terminal productivity, which would serve as an early warning system for determining when ports stop operating normally and for when the federal government needs to step in to protect the economy.

The ports measure was prompted by the recent work slowdowns at West Coast ports. The slowdowns, the result of a months-long labor dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents companies that own West Coast ports, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dock workers, cost the U.S. meat and poultry sectors hundreds of millions of dollars.

NPPC joined more than 70 business and agricultural organizations on a July 15 letter urging the Commerce Committee to include the ports bill in the larger transportation legislation, which likely will be consolidated with a federal highway funding bill approved recently by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The comprehensive six-year transportation reauthorization measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

The House this week approved a transportation bill that extends highway funding only until Dec. 18. Because of a number of factors, said the business and agricultural groups in their letter, “congestion has become commonplace at ports across the country. This congestion has resulted in slowdowns, bottlenecks and chokepoints that impact the efficient flow of cargo with far-reaching impacts.”

Click here to read the letter.