Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 29, 2023
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on April 19, 2023
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 22, 2023
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a national intermodal transportation system that promotes the movement of people and freight in a safe, secure, economically efficient, seamless, and sustainable manner. Infrastructure with these qualities allows the United States to compete more effectively in the increasingly global economy.
ASCE supports significant infrastructure investment and improvements for programs that will result in the efficient flow of people and freight throughout our transportation networks that can be achieved by:
- Developing a seamless, multimodal transportation system, including facilities and modal alternatives to meet the needs for the safe and efficient movement of people and freight.
- Modernizing the seaports, airports, and intermodal hubs and terminal facilities supporting modal transitions.
- Providing modal alternatives that improve the resiliency of our transportation networks.
- Encouraging and enhancing the use of private-public partnerships to design, construct, and operate our intermodal facilities.
- Continuing to implement and evaluate the National Strategic Freight Plan established in 2020.
- Investing in infrastructure upgrades that remove bottlenecks within modal facilities and our transportation networks.
A national intermodal transportation program is needed to provide flexible transportation options using highways, air, water, railways, pipelines, and other intermodal systems to move people and freight. Developing a unified system has been hindered by a lack of national focus on intermodal connectivity. A national program should promote and address:
- Collaboration among multi-jurisdictional agencies.
- Cost-effective planning, design, construction, and operation of intermodal connections.
- Decision-making strategies for designing and operating intermodal passenger facilities that address near and long-term needs in different types of communities.
- Public-private partnerships and innovative funding models or policies for intermodal projects.
- Post-Panamax cargo ships, double-stack railcars, and just-in-time inventory delivery.
- Changes in consumer behavior creating demand for overnight and same day delivery of household goods and products.
- Adopting automation and connectivity technologies for the safe and secure transport of passengers and freight.
An appropriately planned and designed intermodal transportation system is widely recognized as the catalyst to building and maintaining economically, socially, and environmentally successful communities. Federal regulations support that idea, requiring that each state carry out a continuing, comprehensive, and intermodal statewide transportation planning process. Plans and programs should lead to the development and operation of an integrated intermodal transportation system that facilitates the efficient, economically beneficial movement of people and goods.
The intermodal movement of freight is growing. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2020 the U.S. transportation system moved approximately 19 billion tons of freight worth more than $18 trillion.
The goal of a national program would be to provide funding and incentives for intermodal projects that would relieve congestion, improve transportation safety and resiliency, and facilitate international trade. A national intermodal transportation program would requires that the current transportation program’s regulations and operations be restructured to ensure that agencies work collaboratively to integrate different modes of transportation. A national program should address the distinct needs and requirements of both passenger and freight modal systems with careful coordination of shared facilities.
ASCE Policy Statement 149
First Approved pre-1974