HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS TEA-21 REAUTHORIZATION
The United States needs to sharpen its focus on intermodalism to keep up with the global economy, said members of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit at a hearing Tuesday.
To do that, subcommittee members are considering reauthorizing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which would provide federal funds for intermodal planning'and improvements for the nation’s highways and port system.
“One of the most important opportunities for operating efficiency in freight movements is at the transfer points — from ship to rail and ship to truck, or from long-haul shipper to local distributor,” said Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., the subcommittee chairman. “These transfers take place at intermodal terminals, which are the linchpins of an integrated transportation network.”
Intermodalism merits more research and funding to meet the demands of today’s economy that needs just-in-time delivery, said Emil Frankel, assistant secretary for transportation policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Better planning and intermodalism go hand in hand.”
Frankel said effective intermodalism requires seamless and secure movement of freight, and inter-agency cooperation in government.
Government and industry must work together to apply new technologies and sound planning to build a new intermodal infrastructure, he added.
Richard Steinke, chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities, told the subcommittee that burgeoning international and domestic freight volumes have boosted U.S. container terminals' infrastructure needs.
Steinke's own port, the port of Long Beach, will spend nearly $4 billion in terminal and dredging projects over the next decade. “To accommodate future growth, billions more will be needed for the terminal landside and waterside projects alone,” he said.
Petri said that a DOT initiative enacted after Sept. 11, the “Container Working Group” task force, has been working to ensure containers can efficiently move cargo in a secure environment. “Safety, security and efficiency can come together,” he said.
TEA-21 provides for $218 billion to be authorized from 1998 to 2003, but Congress must reauthorize the funds. TEA-21 builds upon a similar law passed in 1991, the International Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which provided for $155 billion to be spent on intermodalism.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., called for members to provide ample funding in TEA-21’s reauthorization. “Funding is the most consistent concern raised as a major impediment to implementing intermodal improvements,” she said.