October 29, 2013

Special T&I Panel Releases Report on Improving U.S. Freight Transportation

Washington, DC – The Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation, led by the panel’s Chairman, U.S. Rep John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), released its final report today on the current state of freight transportation in the United States and its recommendations for freight transportation improvements to strengthen the U.S. economy.

The special panel of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was established by Full Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV) in April.

“Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Nadler, and the members of the Freight Panel did an excellent job of identifying the challenges to U.S. freight transportation efficiency, and they have made important recommendations the Committee will consider in our work to improve the Nation’s infrastructure,” Shuster said.  “Moving goods and people effectively depends on all modes of transportation, which made the work and insight of this special panel so necessary to the Committee’s legislative priorities.”

“The smooth movement of cargo across our transportation network is an essential ingredient in increasing American competitiveness and growing American jobs,” said Rahall.  “The substantive and insightful recommendations made by this bipartisan panel will be of tremendous benefit to our Committee as we craft the next surface transportation bill and look to spur investment in all our transportation modes.”

“Because bottlenecks at any point in the transportation system can seriously impede freight mobility and drive up the cost of the goods, improving the efficient and safe flow of freight across all modes of transportation directly impacts the health of the economy,” said Duncan.  “I was honored to chair a special panel on this critical issue, and I thank Ranking Member Nadler and the other panel members for their dedicated efforts as we worked to better understand our freight transportation challenges and provide recommendations that will help improve the Nation’s competitiveness.”

“Thank you, Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Rahall, for establishing the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation.  I also want to thank Panel Chairman Jimmy Duncan and all of the Members of the Panel for their hard work on developing the Panel’s findings and recommendations,” said Nadler.  “Over the past six months, we have had an opportunity to focus on how best to strengthen the freight network – across all modes of transportation – to meet current and future goods movement demands, whether it be grain shipments on the Mississippi or two-day Amazon.com deliveries to a New York apartment.  I fully support this bipartisan report, signed by every Member of the Panel, and believe we have made a great start.”

In addition to Duncan and Nadler, the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation included Republican members Gary Miller (CA), Rick Crawford (AR), Richard Hanna (NY), Daniel Webster (FL), and Markwayne Mullin (OK); and Democratic members Corrine Brown (FL), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Albio Sires (NJ), and Janice Hahn (CA).

Under the rules of the Committee, the Chairman may create special panels for the purpose of examining specific issues within the Committee’s jurisdiction.  The Freight Panel was the first such panel established, and it examined the current state of freight transportation in the United States to identify (1) the role freight transportation plays in the U.S. economy; (2) ways to increase the efficiency, safety, and overall condition and performance of the Nation’s freight network; (3) how technology assists in the movement of freight; and (4) financing options for transportation projects that improve freight mobility.

To examine these issues, the Panel held six public hearings, three roundtable discussions, toured freight facilities in Southern California, the Memphis region, the New York City/Northern New Jersey region, and Norfolk, Virginia, and held numerous briefings with freight industry professionals and other interested parties.  The Freight Panel’s final report reflects the findings and recommendations it reached as a result of these activities.

To safely and efficiently meet the needs of freight movement in the 21st century, the Freight Panel recommends that Congress should:

  • Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, to establish a comprehensive national freight transportation policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network;
  • Ensure robust public investment in all modes of transportation on which freight movement relies, and incentivize additional private investment in freight transportation facilities, to maintain and improve the condition and performance of the freight transportation network;
  • Promote and expedite the development and delivery of projects and activities that improve and facilitate the efficient movement of goods;
  • Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight Projects of National and Regional Significance through a grant process and establish clear benchmarks for project selection.  Projects eligible for such funding would have a regional or national impact on the overall performance of the multimodal freight network identified by the Secretary of Transportation;
  • Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Army, to identify and recommend sustainable sources of revenue across all modes of transportation that would provide the necessary investment in the Nation’s multimodal freight network and align contributions with use of, and expected benefit of increased investment in, such network; and
  • Review, working through the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Ways and Means, the Secretary’s freight funding and revenue recommendations and develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects prior to Congress’ consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2014.

The complete report of the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation can be read here.