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Transportation infrastructure: AASHTO report outlines future needs for U.S. surface transportation

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
July 12, 2010

Although the current surface transportation reauthorization is funded for the remainder of 2010, it does not by any stretch indicate that the nation’s transportation infrastructure is on solid footing. In fact, it is quite the opposite, according to a recent report released by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The report, entitled “Unlocking Freight,” paints a dire portrait of what ails transportation infrastructure in the United States. And AASHTO said that the situation is so dire that the current U.S. transportation system is facing a crisis, with highways, railroads, ports, waterways, and airports requiring investment significantly below current levels to maintain and improve their performance.

What’s more, AASHTO said that the need to significantly move freight across the U.S. and globally will increase substantially in the 21st century.

“Our goal [with this report] is to send a clear message to America’s lawmakers and the public in general that the transportation system that supports the movement of freight all across the country is facing the potential for a crisis,” said AASHTO Media Relations Manager Tony Dorsey. “Our highways, railroads, ports, and waterways need more investments and improvements.

And with transportation infrastructure investment largely not getting the attention and investment needed to prepare for future population growth and freight demand, Dorsey said the timing of this report is intended to help bring attention to this issue now as lawmakers begin to debate for a new six-year surface transportation authorization bill. Lawmakers need to know that greater investment, better planning and more highway and rail capacity are needed to address these problems along with problems at the country’s ports and waterways, he said.

In terms of the current and future issues regarding the current transportation systems, the report notes that that the U.S. population is expected to grow from 308 million in 2010 to 420 million by 2050, which translates into more food, clothing, and commodities, and subsequently more transportation infrastructure capacity.

AASHTO also said that by 2020 the U.S. trucking industry will move 3 billion more tons of freight than it currently is hauling, which will require another 1.8 million trucks on the road to meet this demand. And in 40 years, the report said that overall freight demand will double from today’s 15 billion tons to 30 billion tons by 2050, with truck and rail freight increasing 41 and 38 percent, respectively, from today’s levels.

With its sights on the future, the report outlines some future fixes to help alleviate the current situation. Among its recommendations are: expanding the capacity of the Interstate Highway System and adding 32,000 miles to it; upgrading 14,000 lane-miles of the current National Highway System to Interstate standards; adding 14,000 lane-miles to NAFTA corridors; adding 8,000 miles to truck-only toll facilities; adding 400 lane-miles to provide access to key port and intermodal facilities; creating and funding a national freight program that could include multi-state freight corridor organizations at the state, regional, and multi-state level; developing a National Multimodal Strategic Freight Plan; and investing in intermodal connector improvements, among others.

“This report outlines what’s at stake if we fail to invest to meet the growing demands on our transportation infrastructure,” said Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell in a statement. “This includes the roads, rails, and seaports we need to move raw materials and goods to market and keep our economy globally competitive. The findings echo the concerns that I—along with Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Bloomberg—have raised across the nation through the Building America’s Future coalition. We know that the capacity of our nation’s roads, rails and seaports is simply not keeping pace with demand.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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