DOT program to boost water cargo

The U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday, April 7, unveiled a new initiative to move more cargo on the water rather than on U.S. highways.

Under the “America’s Marine Highway” program, DOT’s Maritime Administration will help identify rivers and coastal routes that could carry cargo efficiently, bypassing congested roads around busy ports and reducing greenhouse gases.

“For too long, we’ve overlooked the economic and environmental benefits that our waterways and domestic seaports offer as a means of moving freight in this country,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told transportation professionals at the 7th annual North American Marine Highways and Logistics Conference in Baltimore.

Under the new regulation, regional transportation officials will be able to apply to have specific transportation corridors – and even individual projects – designated by DOT as a marine highway if they meet certain criteria. Once designated, these projects will receive preferential treatment for any future federal assistance from the department or MARAD.

The Marine Highway initiative stems from a 2007 law requiring the Secretary of Transportation to “establish a short sea transportation program and designate short sea transportation projects to mitigate surface congestion.”

Asked about the initiative at an online seminar today, Larry Gross, a consultant for FTR Associates said a great deal of freight could not be transferred quickly to water transportation.

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