WASHINGTON — Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Thursday urged Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to launch a comprehensive freight initiative at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The initiative would raise the profile of freight mobility in order to coordinate and improve federal freight policy, planning and investment across all modes, the senator said in a letter to LaHood.
Cantwell said it would also help to eliminate duplication and focus attention on freight projects that have the maximum benefit to the nation’s transportation network, economy and the taxpayer.
The senator said the efficient movement of freight and goods is especially important to Washington state, which exported more per capita last year than any other state in the nation.
In 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight were moved in Washington — a number expected to grow by up to 86 percent by 2040, she said, but noted that congestion threatens this growth — and the jobs and economic opportunities that come with it.
Freight congestion and other bottlenecks already cost the nation approximately $200 billion per year, she said.
“I urge you to move forward on the development of a high-level and coordinated multimodal freight initiative at the Department of Transportation to improve the management of freight programs, investment, coordination, and planning,” Cantwell wrote in the letter. “Americans need a smarter and more efficient approach to freight policy that is strategic about our position as a competitor in the worldwide marketplace and the need for an improved nationwide network that supports job growth long into the future.”
Cantwell’s proposed freight initiative would improve coordination and freight planning across all USDOT operating administrations, she said, and would help evaluate and prioritize proposed federal freight planning and investments based on their strategic importance to the nationwide freight network. It would also establish a collaborative advisory partnership with private, nonprofit and public sector freight stakeholders to provide input and guidance on federal freight efforts.
In her letter to LaHood, Cantwell also encouraged USDOT to consider the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board as an example of successful freight coordination, prioritization and collaboration among many modes and diverse interests.
The board brings together representatives of the trucking, railroad, maritime, and port industries with state and local government stakeholders. The board evaluates and prioritizes proposed freight projects, improves the statewide freight network and, in close collaboration with Washington State Department of Transportation, identifies strategic highway, rail and maritime freight corridors.
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