Intermodal Association of North America

Intermodal Association of North America

President and chief executive

Annual freight movements in the U.S. amount to 15 billion tons and have a value of $9.1 trillion. Conservative estimates forecast that within the next 20 years, total domestic freight tonnage will increase by 67 percent, while international trade will nearly double. Federal, state and local governments have come to recognize the importance of free-flowing freight within - and over - our borders.

This freight epiphany is a monumental change that now needs to be translated into dedicated investment dollars for freight infrastructure projects. At the same time, if our nation is to build the capacity and achieve efficiencies necessary to handle the projected cargo growth, both private and public sectors need to effect policy changes that lead to a mode neutral freight transportation system.

An example of such changes is the agreement announced last year between local, state and federal regulators and the railroad industry. Planners and transportation executives developed a $1.5 billion public-private partnership in the Chicago area to relieve rail congestion and improve the flow of freight through one of the country's largest intermodal hubs. Advocates hope to obtain funding for the project in the next highway reauthorization bill, and this initiative may well be the next "Alameda Corridor" for the freight community. There are other freight-friendly provisions in proposed TEA-21 reauthorization bills that indicate changes in infrastructure investment policy. These include dedicated funding for intermodal freight connectors, the requirement that states integrate freight needs into their transportation plans, and increased flexibility and eligibility for freight projects under existing programs.

Efficient freight transportation is essential to the economic health of the U.S. 2004 may well be the year when changes are made in infrastructure investment decisions that "pave" the way for future growth.