Yesterday, I wrote about the value of good port infrastructure to America's export businesses, but the need for safe, efficient freight movement is much broader than that. A modern transportation system of roads, rails, runways, waterways, and pipelines is important to all American businesses.
And it's important to us at the Department of Transportation.
That's why Deputy Secretary John Porcari talked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Transportation Infrastructure and Logistics Committee yesterday about DOT's efforts to improve our nation's freight movement. And he had plenty to talk about.
Over the last four years, the Obama Administration has made considerable investments in our national freight network. Through four rounds of our popular TIGER Grant program, DOT has directed $1 billion toward projects that primarily address freight. This includes more than $650 million to projects that strengthen freight rail infrastructure, reduce freight bottlenecks, and alleviate congestion issues. And we’ve invested more than $350 million in our port system.
About 48 million tons of goods—from refrigerators to smart phones--are transported across America each day. That’s $46 billion worth of commerce. And that's just one day.
By 2050, America will be home to more than 100 million additional people – and our freight network will need to haul 4 billion more tons of freight per year than it currently does. That means our freight system – which is already the strongest in the world – will need to become even stronger
So it's good news that the new transportation bill, MAP-21, includes a number of ways for us to continue making progress on freight.
The Federal Highway Administration is working to designate a National Freight Network that will focus on the highways most critical to the movement of goods. And we’re working closely with state DOTs to help them create their own comprehensive state freight plans.
We’re also developing performance mechanisms to help states track how they’re doing on freight. And we’ll help states build partnerships with freight industry leaders in the private sector.
Looking toward the future, we’ve established an internal Freight Policy Council, chaired by Deputy Secretary Porcari. Because this Council includes senior leaders from across DOT, it can approach freight improvement--including the development of our National Freight Strategic Plan--from a multimodal perspective. If it's a mode of transportation that moves millions of tons of cargo, it will be part of our Freight Policy Council's discussions.
And right now, we're setting up a National Freight Advisory Committee of professionals from all areas of transportation to help shape our policies. In fact, today is the deadline for nominations. So if you know someone who can help guide our nation's future freight policy-making, I encourage you to let us know fast!
All of the steps we’re taking at DOT today promise a safe, efficient freight network for tomorrow. But improving our freight movement is a big challenge. It will require a lot of cooperation and collaboration between this Department, state DOTs and policymakers, researchers, and the private sector. This is one job we must do together.