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October 30, 2013

House Freight Panel Recommends Increased Investment, Multimodal Perspective

On October 29, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation released its findings and recommendationsEstablished in April 2013, the bipartisan panel held numerous hearings and conducted four site visits across the country.  It was composed of six Republicans and five Democrats, including Rep. Dan Lipinski of northeastern Illinois.

The final report describes current conditions and issues being faced by the national freight system as a whole and by each individual freight mode.  It also reviews relevant work from past national commissions.  The panel issued six key recommendations:

  • The U.S. Secretary of Transportation should "establish a comprehensive national freight policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network."
  • There should be "robust public investment" for all transportation modes related to freight, and additional private investment should be incentivized.
  • Projects and activities that "improve and facilitate the efficient movement of goods" should be promoted and expedited.
  • Sustainable, dedicated funding for multimodal freight Projects of National and Regional Significance should be authorized via grants with clearly established benchmarks for project selection.
  • The Secretary should "identify and recommend sustainable sources of revenue across all modes of transportation‚Ķand align contributions with use of, and expected benefit from of increased investment in, such network."
  • The U.S. Congress should review the Secretary's freight funding and revenue recommendations and develop relevant options for potential inclusion in the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2014.

These recommendations are consistent with GO TO 2040, which calls for a national freight policy and strategic investment in transportation.  The federal panel's findings are also consistent with CMAP's adopted reauthorization principles that support the user-fees principle for transportation funding and performance-based project selection.  Further, these recommendations help to address shortcomings pointed out in CMAP's analysis of the freight provisions included in MAP-21, the current federal transportation authorization law.  That analysis notes that MAP-21's freight provisions are overly highway-focused and lack a sustainable, adequate funding source. 

CMAP is working with other major metropolitan planning organizations across the country on a national freight policy platform.  That effort will likely echo the policy positions offered by the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation, helping to build momentum for a robust freight policy as decision makers gear up for next year's reauthorization discussion.