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New transportation index shows U.S. economy is strengthening, USDOT says

U.S. transportation output reached an historic high in December, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's first monthly Transportation Services Index (TSI) released March 10.

Compiled by USDOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the December TSI rose 1 percent compared with November, reaching the highest level in the 14-year period covered by the index and marking the fourth consecutive monthly increase following a July-to-August decrease. The December index increased 0.06 percent compared with the previous December 2002 peak.

The December freight index increased 2.9 percent compared with November to a record high 120.2, rising 1.2 percent and 1 percent compared with December 2002 and January 2000, respectively. The monthly passenger index dropped 3.6 percent to 114.4, ending seven straight months of increases between May and November. The passenger index peaked at 122.0 in November 2000.

"[The] results give us a clear indication of how much the strength of the transportation sector mirrors the strength of our economy," said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta in a prepared statement "If you look at the data, every time the TSI heats up, the economy follows."

During 2003's second half, the TSI rose 4.5 percent, while the freight and passenger indexes increased 4.1 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, compared with the year's first half. For all of 2003, the TSI, and freight and passenger indexes rose 2.2 percent, 2.8 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, compared with 2002.

TSI is a new monthly economic indicator based on freight and passenger movement data, which USDOT has tracked for decades.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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