MAP-21 pushed U.S. DOT to get serious about freight: In recent months, the agency has announced the creation of a national freight policy, a National Freight Advisory Committee, and a Freight Policy Council, as mandated by the bill.
Now the House Transportation Committee is getting in on the action. The committee announced today that Rep. John Duncan (R-TN), vice-chair of the full committee, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will lead a new “Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation.” The panel, being multi-modal in scope, will bring together members that serve on the various modal subcommittees.
“In the past, the conversation about freight transportation and goods movement has focused only on one specific mode of transportation or another,” said Rep. Duncan in a statement. “But freight doesn’t move just by ship, or by rail car, or by truck. Chances are the goods you buy at the store got on the shelves thanks to all those methods of transportation. Bottlenecks during any leg of that journey from the manufacturer to the market drive up costs. That’s why improving the flow of freight across all modes of transportation is so critical to a healthy economy.”
“The movement of freight is one of the most critical transportation questions for the 21st century,” added Rep. Nadler. “How we prioritize, invest, and develop freight infrastructure will have considerable bearing on how our economy grows, how we compete on the world stage, and how we create a sustainable and environmentally clean future at home.”
A focus on multi-modalism and environmental sustainability would be a welcome addition to the conversation. Though a national conversation about freight movement is long overdue, it’s gotten a bumpy start: Advocates are nervous that the new freight councils and committees could repeat the errors of the past and focus too much on highways. It didn’t help when Sec. Ray LaHood suggested building 3,000 miles of new roads as part of the freight plan.
The House panel will serve for six months, beginning with its first hearing on April 24.