DOT rolls out Freight Policy Council
August 24, 2012 - LM Editorial
An effort focused on national domestic freight initiatives was introduced this week by United States Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood.
Entitled the Freight Policy Council, DOT said its objective is to focus on improving the condition and performance of the national freight network to better ensure the ability of the U.S. to compete in the global economy. It added that the Freight Policy Council will develop a national intermodal plan for improving the efficiency of freight movement and also work with states to encourage development of a forward-looking state freight strategy.
“Our freight system is the lifeblood of the American economy, moving goods quickly and efficiently to benefit both businesses and consumers across the country,” said LaHood in a statement. “With the launch of the Freight Policy Council, we have an opportunity to make not only our freight system, but all modes of transportation, stronger and better connected.”
This effort comes of the heels of the recently-passed national transportation bill Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which calls for the development of a National Freight Strategic Plan which encourages state freight plans and advisory committees, and provides incentives for states that fund projects to improve freight movement, focusing on reducing congestion, increasing productivity, improving the safety, security and resilience of freight transportation. The Freight Policy Council will implement provisions of this bill, according to DOT.
DOT said that the Freight Policy Council will be led by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari and DOT leadership from highways, rail, ports and airports, and economic policy experts in the White House, with the freight and logistics sectors, consumers and other stakeholders serving as advisors, and states will be asked to offer proposals for improving the freight system in their respective locales.
Transportation infrastructure experts told LM that the Freight Policy Council has the potential to make a significant impact.
“Creation of a high-level, multimodal Freight Policy Council will go far in ensuring MAP-21’s freight provisions increase efficiency across all modes of the national freight network,” said Coalition for America’s Gateways and Corridors (CAGTC) Chairman Mortimer Downey. “Establishment of this Council signals a praiseworthy commitment to our national economy and global economic competitiveness. We look forward to working with Deputy Secretary Porcari and members of the Freight Policy Council to continue the progress made in the goods movement space through TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and other Administration initiatives.”
CAGTC Executive Director Leslie Blakey explained that one of the aspects of this announcement by USDOT that is most significant is that they are clearly determined to interpret the MAP21 mandate for a National Strategic Freight Plan as a multimodal endeavor and not just limited to highways.
“This is what we encouraged them to do, but MAP21 left it ambiguous and they could have chosen to go with a much narrower approach,” she said. “Also, the high-level commitment explicit in this announcement is a great sign that they are not going to delay during the coming months, despite the election fog.”
DOT highlighted that it is making strong investments through its freight and loan programs, including: more than $953 million in TIGER funding dedicated to 50 freight-related projects; and the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing Program which provides up to $35 billion in loans and loan guarantees. DOT also highlighted that through MAP-21 freight projects can qualify for $1.75 billion through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) for the next two years.
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