National rail freight capacity expansion urged
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is spending $600 million for on-dock rail infrastructure in an effort to increase the proportion of cargo moving in and out of the port by rail from 13 percent to about 20 percent over the next decade.
But in testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Safety Monday, Richard M. Larrabee, the port authority's director of port commerce, said, “much of our investment is in jeopardy if other funding sources, public or private, are not identified to expand the freight rail system nationally.”
He was one of several speakers urging expansion of rail freight capacity at the hearing.
“According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials (AASHTO), without sufficient investment, by 2020 only half of the forecasted growth in freight rail tonnage can be accommodated by the current freight rail system,” he said.” The balance would likely shift to trucks and the highway system.
“This would have a detrimental effect on our environment, and increase congestion on roads that are shared with local residents. We recognize that our port facilities — and the port authority’s bridges and tunnels — are just one link in the global supply chain. The port authority can partner with others, but has no authority to invest infrastructure assets beyond its port district, a 25-mile zone circumscribed around the Statue of Liberty,” he added.
“Enhancing our nation’s freight system should and must be at the forefront of any discussion of transportation. It is imperative that port authorities and logistics companies have a partner in the federal government for this effort, as a local or regional approach will not suffice,” Larrabee said.
“It is going to take time — and a great deal of funding — to maintain and enhance the freight movement system in the nation. While we are working on this, international trade and demand for freight transportation will continue to grow. The world is not waiting for us — if our system can’t keep up, the nation’s economy will become less competitive and will suffer.” said.
Ed Hamberger, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Railroads, told the committee a recent study found that if rail capacity needs are not properly addressed by 2035 about one-third of the 52,000 miles of prime rail corridor in the country will be “unstable and congestion and service delays would be persistent and substantial. Because the rail system is so interconnected this outcome would mean that the entire U.S. freight rail system would become, in effect disabled.”
The hearing can be seen and testimony read at: commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=77486eb1-8f44-4d14-92d1-65bb807d297e