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Aashto: Freight Transportation Demands Near Crisis

In 10 years, an additional 1.8 million trucks will be on the road; in 20 years, for every two trucks today, another one will be added

In 10 years, an additional 1.8 million trucks will be on the road; in 20 years, for every two trucks today, another one will be added. Already, bottlenecks on major highways used by truckers every day are adding millions of dollars to the cost of food, goods and manufacturing equipment for American consumers. As a result, according to a new report, the transportation system that supports the movement of freight across America is facing a crisis.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' "Unlocking Freight" is an analysis of America's freight system that finds our highways, railroads, ports, waterways, and airports require investments well beyond current levels to merely maintain--much less improve--their performance. The report identifies key projects in 30 states that would improve freight delivery and dependability; and a three-point plan is offered to address what is needed to relieve freight congestion, generate jobs and improve productivity.

AASHTO President and Mississippi DOT Executive Director Larry "Butch" Brown said, "The simple fact is: no transportation, no economy. They are inseparable. We must invest to maintain and strengthen the American 'transconomy'. Congress must invest in all transportation modes; from waterways to roads and rails to get us where we need to be as a competitive nation. Millions of jobs and our nation's long-term economic health depend on it."

Despite more long-distance freight being moved by intermodal rail, the report finds that trucks will still carry 74% of the load. On average, 10,500 trucks a day travel some segments of the interstate highway system. By 2035, this will increase to 22,700 commercial trucks for these portions of the interstates, with the most heavily used segments seeing upwards of 50,000 trucks a day. Yet, between 1980 and 2006, this traffic increased by 150%, while interstate capacity increased by only 15%. The report identifies the 1,000 miles of most heavily traveled highways used by trucks.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell said, "This report outlines what's at stake if we fail to invest to meet the growing demands on our transportation infrastructure. This includes the roads, rails and seaports we need to move raw materials and goods to market and keep our economy globally competitive."

"The nation's multimodal freight transportation system directly affects economic development, current and future jobs, and the quality of life in our communities," said Ohio DOT Director Jolene M. Molitoris. "Today the nation's freight transportation system supports more than 10 million jobs, from couriers, truckers, laborers, shippers, railroad conductors and mechanics to postal carriers, warehouse operators and stock clerks. Now, think about how many more jobs will be added as the industry grows over time and you begin to see yet another reason why this study is so important."

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely said, "To accommodate this predicted growth in freight movement, we need to think nationally, regionally, and on a multi-modal level. Central to this effort should be the creation of a National Multimodal Freight Plan to ensure that transportation investments are coordinated and made where most needed. By linking trucks, rail, waterway transport, and aviation, freight can be moved more efficiently throughout the nation."

"Unlocking Freight" is the second in a series of reports generated by AASHTO to identify the need to increase capacity in our transportation system.