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House hearing examines TEA-21's future impact on intermodalism


House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Highways and Transit Subcommittee June 18 held a hearing titled "We Must Foster a More Integrated and Efficient Transportation System," one of a series of hearings the subcommittee plans to hold in preparation for Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century's (TEA 21) reauthorization next year.

"As we chart the course for our nation's transportation priorities, we must look for connections reaching beyond a single mode to foster a more integrated and efficient transportation system," said Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), subcommittee chairman, according to a prepared statement.

Witnesses, speaking on behalf of trucking, railroads, ports, commercial bus lines and regional transportation planners, agreed that intermodal improvements are needed to meet increasing demand for on-time shipments in a tight economy.

"An intermodal approach can help us to provide the right facilities and to operate them with greater efficiency, and although much has been done, the promise of intermodalism remains unfulfilled," said Emil Frankel, U.S. Department of Transportation assistant secretary for transportation policy.

Various witnesses recommended the government create a program dedicated to funding intermodal projects, enhance existing programs that fund intermodal projects, increase flexibility of other programs to allow intermodal projects to become eligible under those programs and streamline the permitting process to more quickly bring projects online.

Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger proposed that TEA-21 include provisions that encourage freight planners to give rail issues greater consideration in state and local transportation planning; fund rail infrastructure through issuance of tax-exempt indebtedness; provide tax incentives and tax-exempt financing to companies investing in intermodal; and expand and make less-restrictive Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program.

"More than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight moves by rail, yet railroads receive just 9 percent of U.S. intercity freight revenues," said Hamberger. "As a nation, we will need to make even more extensive use of rail intermodal service in the future."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/19/2002