The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking industry stakeholders to sit on a new National Freight Advisory Committee tasked with making recommendations to improve the freight transportation system.
In a separate notice, the DOT asked for comments on its proposal for designating a national freight network so that investments can be targeted where cargo flows are heaviest to ensure efficient movement.
The United States spends tens of billions of dollars on maintenance and construction of surface transportation infrastructure each year across all levels of government, but historically there has never been an overarching plan for coordinating state and federal investment, especially when it comes to freight-related infrastructure.
MAP-21, the two-year transportation bill enacted last summer, called for the creation of a national transportation plan as well as a National Freight Strategic Plan to help the DOT set priorities for how to spend transportation funding.
The new advisory committee will provide advice to policymakers on how to implement the freight transportation requirements of MAP-21, including the establishment of the National Freight Network, and develop the National Freight Strategic Plan. It will also help the DOT develop guidelines for states to create their own freight advisory committees and freight plans, new measures for assessing the condition and performance of the freight network, tools and data sources for guiding decisions on infrastructure investment, and make legislative proposals.
The stakeholder group will work closely with the DOT's Freight Policy Council formed by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last August to develop the national intermodal plan for improving the efficiency of the freight system. The council brings together all the modal administrators within DOT, as well as its economic and policy experts across the administration, in an effort to have a government-wide approach to freight infrastructure.
The DOT will appoint at least 25 members from outside the department who will serve for two-year terms. Members may be reappointed for a second term. The DOT said it wants diverse points of view across all modes of transportation, regions and policy areas such as safety, labor and the environment. Eligible candidates include state departments of transportation, state and local elected officials and planning professionals, shippers, carriers, transportation intermediaries, labor union representatives, and interest groups.
The panel will meet at least three times a year.
Instructions for how to submit nominations will be published in the Federal Register
in a few days, the DOT said. Click here for a draft version of the notice and application instructions
Meanwhile, the DOT announced how it plans to identify the 27,000 most critical miles of existing interstate and other roadways for goods movement, as required by MAP-21. The National Freight Network
will be based on an inventory of national freight volume conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, leavened with feedback from freight transportation providers and users. The primary freight network could be augmented with an additional 3,000 miles of existing and planned roadways in the future, the DOT said.
Data used to identify the high-traffic freight corridors will include origins and destinations of freight movements, total freight tonnage and the value of freight moved by highways, the percentage of average daily truck traffic, the location of inland and maritime ports, and other information from the department's Freight Analysis Framework. Multiple scenarios, such as a range of tonnage or commodity values, will be analyzed, including using weighted data to identify the primary freight network. Scenarios will also analyze ranges of service and access to major ports for international trade, access to energy and population centers and connectivity to inland waterways and railroads.
Comments must be received by March 8. - Eric Kulisch