New Recommendations for National Strategic Freight Plan
In June 2014, the National Freight Advisory Committee (NFAC) submitted a report with recommendations to guide the development of the National Freight Strategic Plan to be developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT), as required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. The report's 81 recommendations address barriers to and best practices for improving the freight system, as well as methods to mitigate the freight system's harmful effects on communities. Examples include the following:
- Create a dedicated fund for multimodal freight projects, focusing on first- and last-mile connections of regional and national significance.
- Establish a Permitting and Compliance Division within U.S. DOT as a one-stop shop to streamline the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) permitting process.
- Extend MAP-21's streamlining provisions to other modal administrations within U.S. DOT and further investigate the wider application of categorical exclusions in the NEPA process.
- Strengthen data collection, including multimodal origin-destination freight flows, ports of entry performance, import bottlenecks, and the repositioning of empty containers for exports.
- Invest in a research program that promotes technology improvements in the freight sector.
- Require and fund the development of state freight plans that will contribute to the National Freight Strategic Plan.
- Encourage and support the creation of regional, statewide, and/or multi-state institutions as appropriate to expedite the completion of freight projects.
- Use policy best practices, such as buffering freight facilities from population centers and strategic truck routing, to minimize the impact of freight of local communities.
As outlined in its federal agenda, CMAP supports efforts to create a national freight strategic plan that has dedicated funding and investment incentives for freight projects and multimodal corridors of national significance, positions that are generally echoed in the NFAC report. CMAP's adopted reauthorization principles provide more detail on its freight policy positions, including support for better integration of metropolitan regions into the freight decision-making process; dedication of at least $2 billion annually for freight; and redefinition of the national freight network as a multimodal system.
The NFAC recommendations come as the U.S. Congress is considering a short-term extension of the federal transportation program through May 2015. CMAP will continue to monitor and analyze the reauthorization process and advocate for robust freight policy.