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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

USDOT forms Freight Policy Council; LaHood tours Idaho port

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the launch of a Freight Policy Council, which will focus on improving the national freight network’s condition and performance to help the United States better compete in the global economy.

The council will develop a national intermodal plan to improve the efficiency of freight movements and to help meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015, USDOT officials said in a prepared statement. The council also will work with states to encourage the development of forward-looking freight strategies.

The council will be chaired by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari and include USDOT leaders from the rail, highway, port and airport sectors, as well as economic and policy experts from across the administration. The freight and logistics industries, consumers and other stakeholders also will play advisory roles, and states will be asked to offer proposals for improving their region’s freight system, USDOT officials said.

“Our freight system is the lifeblood of the American economy, moving goods quickly and efficiently to benefit both businesses and consumers across the country,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “With the launch of the Freight Policy Council, we have an opportunity to make not only our freight system, but all modes of transportation, stronger and better connected.”

Meanwhile, LaHood on Wednesday toured the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, which plans to extend its container dock by 150 linear feet. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and the state’s Republican U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch also attended the tour.

In June, the port received a $1.3 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery IV grant to help fund the dock extension. A feeder line operated by the Watco Cos. L.L.C.’s Great Northwest Railroad provides the port with a direct link to BNSF Railway Co.’s and Union Pacific Railroad’s mainlines.

“It was clear to see how important [the port’s] container pier is to this community, to the state and to the region,” said LaHood in his online blog. “It was also clear to see how important it is to expand the port's capacity."

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More News from 8/24/2012