Subcommittee says funding will help freight movement

| 4/25/2008

The movement of freight already faces gridlock, but government officials say it could get even worse in the coming years as cities and populations outgrow infrastructure capacity.

The U.S. House Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, heard testimony on Thursday, April 24, regarding congestion and freight movement.

Based on their comments during the hearing, the subcommittee members and four guest panelists apparently believe the federal government has not kept up with funding or investment in the system.

With major transportation legislation headed down the pike – namely the 2009 reauthorization bill for transportation funding – a number of top lawmakers and committees on Capitol Hill are weighing in.

“Freight volume is expected to experience explosive growth in the coming years, largely due to rapidly rising imports,” said Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-OR.

Congestion costs Americans $78 billion per year in fuel and time, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report released Sept. 17, 2007.

Panelists offering suggestions at the hearing Thursday included Randal Mullett, vice president of the National Cooperative Freight Research Program’s Technical Oversight Committee; Scott Hass, vice president of transportation for UPS; Michael Uremovich, CEO of Pacer International; and Gary Cardwell, divisional vice president for Northwest Container Service.

“We fundamentally make a living because the transportation system is broken up into pieces,” Uremovich said. Pacer specializes in third-party, non-asset-based logistics that includes owner-operators.

Panelists and members of the subcommittee offered numerous suggestions about congestion and funding woes, including improving alternate routes; adding highway capacity; adding rail capacity; promoting domestic production; increasing taxes to pay for improvements; reducing regulations; implementing new technologies; and streamlining the intermodal movement of freight.

DeFazio called the level of current federal funding for surface transportation “pathetic,” saying members of the U.S. House and Senate have a responsibility to incorporate more funding into the next reauthorization bill.

– By David Tanner, staff writer