Overdrive Staff | September 01, 2010

Freight plan bill favors rail

Some transportation groups are backing a congressional bill meant to improve public freight policy while adding an infrastructure grants program. The bill includes funding eligibility for rail projects, but trucking is not mentioned.

Under the bill, multi-modal terminal facilities are among projects that can receive grants. This site is in south Memphis, Tenn.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation Act July 22. The bill was sent to the Commerce Committee and had not been reported out by mid-August.

The FREIGHT Act, or S. 3629, would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop and implement a National Freight Transportation Strategic Plan and create an Office of Freight Planning and Development.

Projects that can receive grants are for port development or improvement, multi-modal terminal facilities, land port of entries, freight rail improvement or capacity expansion and an intelligent transportation system project primarily for freight benefit that reduces congestion, improves safety or plans that improve port or terminal access.

Rail has received increased attention nationally as a method to reduce diesel pollution and road traffic. Some ports are adding short-haul freight services to decrease truck trips.

The groups backing the legislation include the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, Environmental Defense Fund, Transportation for America and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association. Trucking organizations have not publicly issued a statement on the proposed legislation.

The act’s goals include reducing freight transportation-related fatalities 10 percent by 2015 and cutting national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide by 40 percent by 2030.

— Jill Dunn

Bill would increase truck weight

The Senate has referred a bill to committee that would increase the Interstate truck weight allowance from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds in states choosing this plan.

On Aug. 4, Sen. Mike Crapo introduced the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2010, or S. 3705. The Idaho Republican’s bill, which has three co-sponsors, would require the heavier trucks have at least six axles.

In 2009, 54 House members co-sponsored similar legislation. H.R. 1799 was referred to the transportation and infrastructure and the ways and means committees.

The American Trucking Associations says the bill would reduce emissions, decrease the number of trucks on the road and fuel usage. Some other nations, including Canada, allow heavier weights.

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