Future transportation policy will break down the Department of Transportation’s “Stonehenge” structure — restructuring a group of monoliths — Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., said June 8.
Even the real Stonhenge has some monoliths connected by lintels, which is something the modal monoliths don’t have at DOT, Oberstar told the Propeller Club of Washington.
Oberstar is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is finishing its draft of an 800-page bill to restructure DOT and develop a comprehensive national transportation policy. The bill will be introduced before the end of this month, he said.
DOT will have a high-level chief of intermodalism and a policy council of all modes that will meet regularly.
“Today they don’t sit around a table to have coffee,” Oberstar said. “We must step outside the insular modal system and facilitate the efficient movement of goods. We must avoid the inefficiencies of the traditional modal structure.”
Maritime transportation will not be overlooked in future transportation policy and strategy, Oberstar said. “We’re going to transform the future of transportation in America, and put maritime in the front ranks.”
Oberstar called the current state of the U.S. merchant marine “despicable — we should be No. 1,” and said that the U.S. has to improve maritime training to build a “graying” maritime workforce.
The U.S. should take steps to protect U.S. flag ships from Somali pirates. Marine safety should become a core mission of the Coast Guard.
“We also need to embrace short sea shipping. This is one I think has great promise,” Oberstar said. He said the Harbor Maintenance Tax is a barrier to entry that should be eliminated, and Congress should consider tax credits for trucking companies that shift freight from the highway to water.
“It’s difficult to get financing for short sea shipping vessels because the vessel interests are not sure that the water highway will actually work,” Oberstar said. “But it stands to be good public policy to get thousands of trucks off the highways and even some railcars off the rails.”
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