Shippers and transportation companies representing all modes of transportation in Kansas City have launched a campaign to boost the region's intermodal infrastructure and promote the area as a crossroads of North American transportation.

The first steps in the campaign include forming a carrier-shipper coalition to encourage future infrastructure projects and locating funds for seven short-term highway improvement projects to cement linkages between rail and road transportation.The lobbying group, known as the Heartland Freight Stakeholders Coalition, is headed by George Powell III, chairman of Yellow Corp.

With the backing of the region's Chamber of Commerce, the coalition was an outgrowth of an intermodal freight study that outlined the area's strengths and weaknesses in transportation and logistics activities.

The seven initial projects, called the Jump Start Program, can be done for less than $400,000, according to the study done by JBM Engineering of Kansas City, Mo.

Paul Malir, an associate at JBM engineering, said the Jump Start projects could be completed in the first year.

Those projects include roads leading to rail intermodal facilities operated by Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, Burlington Northern Railroad, Southern Pacific Lines, Union Pacific Railroad, Kansas City Southern Railway and Norfolk Southern Corp.

The campaign includes efforts to channel more federal and state transport funding to projects that benefit freight transportation.

Doug Luciani, vice president of transportation for the Chamber of Commerce, said, "We have identified intermodal connectors in the National Highway System (NHS) that can be funded through the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) process."

Congress is working on legislation to establish the National Highway System, a 159,000-mile-route network that carries the lion's share of U.S. commercial freight.

The MPO's are local organizations that determine how some federal and state transport money in spent.

Mr. Luciani said the chamber is trying to develop funding sources for the coalition, whose office functions and other staff duties will be supported by his organization for the first one or two years.

The chamber is trying to recruit 20 of the region's largest transport companies, which carry 76 million tons of freight and employ 22,000 persons, as prime backers of the coalition.

Plans call for convening a "town hall" meeting of freight interests in September or October to further develop the program, Mr. Luciani said.

In addition completing the Jump Start program, other priorities identified in the study include the following:

* Updating transport plans to recognize freight transport's contribution to the local economy.

* Locate funding sources for on-going infrastructure maintenance.

* Insuring that four roadways qualify as intermodal connectors in the NHS.

* Targeting projects in the Northeast Industrial District, including improvements to Front Street.

* Establishing relationships with Texas groups that are promoting development of a North American freight corridor between Canada and Mexico.