Advocates for improved goods movement on Tuesday called for a national freight policy, improved connectors to ports, and a dedicated office within the Department of Transportation.
They staked out their positions in the first of a two-part hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The committee is beginning to draft a new multi-year surface transportation bill. All told, 39 witnesses representing a range of interests from bicycling to construction will have testified by the time the hearing is closed today.
Mortimer L. Downey III, advisor to Parsons Brinckerhoff and speaking for the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors, called for the creation of a freight office within DOT.
"It could be the focal point within the department to develop on an unbiased basis the data, policies and strategies that are needed to tune up our freight system and make it an efficient part of our economy," Downey said. He also called for a private sector advisory committee to help DOT develop new policy.
Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities, said that while ports are investing $2 billion a year to improve port infrastructure, "roadblocks and bottlenecks are often on the connections to our ports on the land and water side."
Nagle noted that Federal Highway Administration data show that connectors to ports are in worse condition and receive less funding than other parts of the highway system. He also called for "incentives to encourage more short-sea shipping to better utilize our nation's water assets."
Barbara Windsor, chief executive of Hahn Transportation and chairman of the American Trucking Associations, suggested that funding for transit programs should come from the general fund, not the highway fund
"This would provide an immediate injection of approximately $5 billion in highway funding annually," Windsor said.
Wayne Johnson, manager global carrier relations for Owens Corning and speaking for the National Industrial Transportation League said states should have more flexibility in allowing 97,000-pound trucks.
Other panelists suggested substituting the Highway Trust Fund with a broader transportation trust fund. Johnson said the NIT League wants more detail before endorsing the idea.
"We are concerned in that the attempt trying to overcome many shortcomings of our transportation, there will be unwarranted claims on this fund for purposes unrelated to transportation," Johnson said.
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