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Congressional Panel Releases Report on Improving Freight Transportation

Following an inquiry that included six public hearings, three roundtable discussions, and tours of four key freight corridors, including the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Congressional Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation released its report, "Improving the Nation's Freight Transportation System: Findings and Recommendations of the Special Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation."

According to the report's executive summary, the Freight Panel sought to: ". . . gain insight into the current state of freight transportation and how improving freight transportation can strengthen the economy. The Panel identified many challenges and impediments to the efficient and safe movement of goods into, out of, and through the United States."

Specifically, the Freight Panel sought to identify:

  • the role freight transportation plays in the U.S. economy;
  • ways to increase the efficiency, safety, and overall condition and performance of the Nation's freight network;
  • how technology assists in the movement of freight; and
  • financing options for transportation projects that improve freight mobility.

The Freight Panel was led by Chairman, Rep John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). On July 26, 2013, it was given a tour that included Greenville Yard and the float bridge that connects Sunset Park, Brooklyn with the rail freight system of Long Island. The members of congress then proceeded to a hearing held at the U.S. Customs House next to the World Trade Center.

At that hearing, Patrick J. Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said, "Efficient freight service in the New York City region is critical to job creation and retention in our region, and to our country's sustainable and prosperous future . . . Our port assets and associated freight rail movements are critical to the health of our region and that of the nation. Today, freight passing through our port can reach 20 percent of the U.S. population, or more than 62 million people, in fewer than eight hours and more than 30 percent, or over 94 million people in fewer than 48 hours."

Released on Monday, October 28, the panel's report summarizes its findings on these issues and recommends that Congress:

  • direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the U.S. 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; and
  • 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 use of, and expected benefit of increased investment.

Click here to download a copy of the panel's report.

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