U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Thursday launched a council tasked with creating a national freight policy.
The creation of the Freight Policy Council, which is chaired by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Pocari, was a key provision in the recently passed $105 billion transport bill. Transportation analysts welcomed the move, but were dismayed that Congress balked at spending a proposed $4 billion to improve a designated freight network of 27,000 miles and roads.
Although the designated freight network doesn’t include rail and inland waterway routes, the FPC is a step toward creating a more comprehensive approach to improving the freight system. The strengthening of such a system is key to reaching President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015.
The launch of the council comes after the DOT expanded the lending capability of the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program to up to $35 billion annually, and the Obama administration made $473 million in funding originally allocated to earmark projects available to states. The agency has also awarded $953 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants in recent years, with ports and freight rail projects getting roughly $104 million in the most recent round.