Freight Facilities Grants needed in US

Since 1981, Britain's Department of Transport has had a program available to industry that provides grants to establish and/or improve their maritime infrastructure, with the goal of moving more cargo off the roads and onto inland waterways. In fact, this program has existed for rail infrastructure since 1974. Why hasn't something along these lines been established in the U.S.?

In light of the projected doubling of cargo between now and 2020, which may involve up to 10,000 trucks daily on highways such as I-710 in Southern California, there must be a reasonable explanation why a program such as Britain's Freight Facilities Grant (FFG) Program has not been fully explored or implemented in the U.S. In view of the dire need for intermodal transportation infrastructure improvements, the question about whether any viable SEA-21 legislation might occur within the upcoming reauthorization of TEA-21 and the Maritime Administration's current Short-Sea Shipping Initiative, ideas similar to the FFG Program should be looked into.

Britain is looking at extending the FFG program to include short-sea shipping projects. Such a program could be run by U.S. Department of Transportation in a similar fashion to the Port Security Grants Program. As with the FFG, such a program could alleviate traffic and cargo congestion within the port areas (by moving cargo via rail and water vs. truck), reduce emissions, and have a significant and positive economic and political impact. The scarcity of land for U.S. ports to further expand will only get worse by 2020. We are already seeing inland container ports and distribution centers being proposed and built to move cargo out of the ports more quickly, so that the existing port properties will be able to accept the anticipated growth.

We should look ahead to 2020 and see whether an FFG Program for the U.S. might provide a means to assist in achieving an improved intermodal transportation system infrastructure. Projects such as the Port of New York and New Jersey's Port Inland Distribution Network, Alameda Corridor East, container-on-barge services, inland container ports and distribution facilities could be partially funded by such a program and

wouldn't have to fight an uphill battle for TEA-21 funding. The timing is right for the U.S. to seriously consider some viable program options so that maritime and rail projects might have a better chance of being funded rather than relying primarily on a new TEA-21.

Randy Rogers

San Francisco, Calif.