Special T&I panel releases report on improving U.S. freight transportation

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor
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The Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation, led by the panel's Chairman, U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), released its final report on the current state of freight transportation in the United States and its recommendations for freight transportation improvements to strengthen the U.S. economy.


The special panel of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was established by Full Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV) in April.

“Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Nadler and the members of the Freight Panel did an excellent job of identifying the challenges to U.S. freight transportation efficiency and they have made important recommendations the committee will consider in our work to improve the nation’s infrastructure,” Rep. Shuster said. “Moving goods and people effectively depends on all modes of transportation, which made the work and insight of this special panel so necessary to the committee’s legislative priorities.”

“Because bottlenecks at any point in the transportation system can seriously impede freight mobility and drive up the cost of the goods, improving the efficient and safe flow of freight across all modes of transportation directly impacts the health of the economy,” said Rep. Duncan. “I was honored to chair a special panel on this critical issue and I thank Ranking Member Nadler and the other panel members for their dedicated efforts as we worked to better understand our freight transportation challenges and provide recommendations that will help improve the nation’s competitiveness.”

The Freight Panel was established to examine the current state of freight transportation in the United States to identify (1) the role freight transportation plays in the U.S. economy; (2) ways to increase the efficiency, safety and overall condition and performance of the nation’s freight network; (3) how technology assists in the movement of freight and (4) financing options for transportation projects that improve freight mobility.

To examine these issues, the panel held six public hearings, three roundtable discussions, toured freight facilities in Southern California, the Memphis region, the New York City/Northern New Jersey region and Norfolk, Va., and held numerous briefings with freight industry professionals and other interested parties. To safely and efficiently meet the needs of freight movement in the 21st century, the Freight Panel recommends that Congress should:

• 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;
• 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 in, such network;
• Review, working through the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Ways and Means, 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 reauthorization bill in 2014.

The complete report of the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation is located here.