By Bill Holloway
A new report from the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation, Improving the Nation’s Freight Transportation System, recommends a series of steps for Congress to take in order to modernize the national freight transportation system to increase transportation efficiency and economic competitiveness. The eleven-member panel was created by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last spring and reached bipartisan agreement on the following broad recommendations:
- Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, to establish a comprehensive national freight transportation policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network;
- Ensure robust public investment in all modes of transportation on which freight movement relies and incentivize additional private investment in freight transportation facilities to maintain and improve the condition and performance of the freight transportation network;
- Promote and expedite the development and delivery of projects and activities that improve and facilitate the efficient movement of goods;
- Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight Projects of National and Regional Significance through a grant process, and establish clear benchmarks for project selection. Projects eligible for such funding would have a regional or national impact on the overall performance of the multimodal freight network identified by the Secretary of Transportation.;
- Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Army, to identify and recommend sustainable sources of revenue across all modes of transportation that would provide the necessary investment in the nation’s multimodal freight network and align contributions with the use and expected benefit of increased investment in such network; and
- Working through the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Ways and Means, review the Secretary’s freight funding and revenue recommendations and develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects prior to Congress’ consideration of the surface transportation re-authorization bill in 2014.
Area-specific recommendations related to funding/financing, planning and project delivery, freight rail, highways and trucking, shipping and ports, inland waterways, and air cargo also are included.
The report backs up its recommendations with brief primers focused on each freight transportation mode, describing its history and economic importance. It also provides a primer focused on the warehousing and logistics industry. Readers looking for a quick introduction (or a refresher) on the role of freight transportation and its importance to the broader economy will find these sections useful.
Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.