In the most recent round, the INFRA program saw $12 in requests for every $1 that was available, said Joseph Szabo, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, who was representing the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors.
“Freight doesn’t move on highways alone,” he said. “We have to invest in the very best projects that bring the greatest results to the public regardless of mode. Simply where public benefit is derived, investment should be made.”
Both Szabo and Noel Hacegaba, who was representing the Intermodal Association of North America, voiced support of adding a multimodal freight office within the U.S. Department of Transportation. The total cost to meet the nation’s freight infrastructure needs is estimated at $3.7 trillion and U.S. businesses spend an additional $27 billion each year due to congestion and outdated facilities, Hacegaba said.
The multimodal office would provide a broad and holistic view of the overall needs of the intermodal supply chain, they said.
“When it comes to the intermodal freight network, we need to ensure that the last mile, the first mile and every mile in between is adequately funded so that that supply chain is seamless,” said Hacegaba, the deputy executive director of administration and operations at the Port of Long Beach. “We believe that having that office at that level would bring attention to the funding needs and the infrastructure to go with the needs.”
Hacegaba also said the Port of Long Beach recently conducted a pilot using General Electric’s Port Optimizer, and similar emerging technologies can be used to improve data transfer, transparency and predictability between modes.
“This advanced visibility can benefit the entire intermodal supply chain and it comes at a critical time as we face increased competition from ports in Canada and Mexico where the respective governments have developed national strategies and the freight stakeholders there are aggressively working to attract more cargo moving to and from the U.S. markets,” he said.
Baker said the Short Line Rehabilitation Tax Credit, which was enacted in 2004 and has been renewed six times through 2017, should become permanent to help short line railroads meet their investment needs. Congress also should continue to examine and eliminate unnecessary federal regulations, he said.
“Unnecessary regulations divert precious financial resources from track rehabilitation, and that rehabilitation is the best way to improve railroad safety,” he said.
“There’s nothing that we produce here in agricultural and forest product shipments that cannot be sourced elsewhere in the world,” she said. “If we cannot deliver affordably and dependably to our customer in Asia and Europe and around the world, someone else will, and getting those customers back is nearly impossible. All over the country we’re faced with bottlenecks, delays and handcuffs in our ability to execute within the supply chain.”
The shortage of chassis in terms of quality, safety, fair access and accountability is another challenge the industries face. Three outside firms own the vast majority of the nation’s chassis fleet, which has resulted in no accountability for provision of adequate quantity and quality, she said.
“The problem was so critical in Memphis that we came together to form a Memphis innovation supply chain team,” which brought stakeholders together to find actionable resolve, Lemm said.
She said a single gray pool with interoperability would immediately increase supply.