Maybe you commute by train, or maybe you've switched from driving to biking. But your stuff is still traveling the country by diesel truck.
The freight sector is lumbering under inefficient and outdated systems that cause pollution, public health problems, safety hazards, and delivery delays. There’s never been a coordinated national approach to solving these problems. And with no deliberate strategy, the default approach is often to build more highways.
As Stephen Davis of Transportation for America writes:
If a port is congested or wants to expand, there’s little available federal money to spend directly on rail or any other mode. Your choices are highways or highways. When a state or port does spend to improve operations, there is no accountability to make sure they’re actually reducing port/freight congestion, moving freight faster, or reducing air pollution in surrounding communities.
Enter the FREIGHT Act. (That’s the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment and Guidance to Help Transportation Act of 2010, with true Capitol Hill acronym panache.) The FREIGHT Act was introduced in the Senate toward the end of July and in the House a week later.
The bill focuses on areas known as "connectors," said Kathryn Phillips of the Environmental Defense Fund. “All the literature and studies say it’s the connector areas, the hubs, where you have the most congestion and environmental impacts.” The bill calls for troubleshooting at these bottlenecks, where products are transferred “from boat to truck to another truck to rail” and everything gets bogged down. Trucks get stuck in traffic; trains sit on the tracks; ships idle at port.
Communities near international ports pay the price. In Riverside, California, traffic gets tied up at 26 at-grade rail crossings 128 times a day when trains pass. Add to that the noise and pollution nearby neighborhoods must contend with.Read more...