Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on February 12, 2021
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 5, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a national intermodal freight mobility program that is flexible, efficient, robust, resilient, and environmentally sustainable; provides a coordinated national foundation to support the nation’s economic growth and global economic competitiveness; and moves goods in a safe, reliable, affordable and energy efficient manner. ASCE supports the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Freight Strategic Plan and its strategic goals of modernizing freight infrastructure, improving safety, and encouraging innovation. Under this framework, freight network improvements should continue to:
- Address the efficient flow of raw materials and finished products to support the nation’s business and industry, and which addresses anticipated future growth in demand for the movement of freight.
- Recognize the growth of e-commerce, its impact on the movement of goods and services, and the resulting need for adaptable freight systems on a national, regional, and local scale.
- Identify existing and anticipated future national, multimodal freight networks.
- Identify a mechanism to prioritize and provide funding for public and private multimodal freight improvement projects.
- Encourage state, regional, and local jurisdictions to work cooperatively with private sector partners to plan and advance projects and strategies to most effectively implement improvements needed to provide safe, secure, and environmentally friendly freight movement critical to the well-being of communities.
- Ensure robust public investment in all modes of transportation which support freight movement.
- Offer incentives for additional private investment in freight transportation facilities needed to maintain and improve the condition and performance of the network.
- Provide a sustainable, dedicated funding source to support necessary repair, improvement, and expansion of freight systems that provides for their improved safety, efficiency, and overall condition.
- More efficiently deliver freight related infrastructure projects to shorten project delivery times and decrease costs.
- Expand multimodal flexibility and encourage multimodal solutions to address performance issues.
- Provide for the seamless transfer of freight between transport modes and jurisdictions at intermodal connection points to alleviate bottlenecks for freight movement and add capacity to freight facilities.
- Accommodate freight movement demand while providing compatibility in safety and efficiency with passenger movement on shared transportation facilities which support both passenger and freight travel modes.
- Plan for the eventual prevalence of connected and automated freight delivery.
As the U.S. economy competes in and becomes more reliant on, global markets, and the needs of consumers and industry continue to grow, the movement of goods has gained increasing importance. Freight must move across vast distances, and the nation’s freight transportation network makes it possible to move freight reliably and flexibly across the nation under different transport modes. Additionally, to meet the growing demands of the national and global economy, the freight transportation system needs improved connectivity and level of service at to the major intermodal terminals including seaports, airports, rail terminals, ports of entry, and inland intermodal terminals.
The nation’s economy and population continue to grow, and overall freight demand is expected to increase by approximately 1.2 percent annually over the next 20 years. A snapshot of the existing and anticipated future movement of freight by various modes provides a glimpse of the scale of existing and future system demand which will need to be accommodated:
- Highways: Trucks carried 11.5 billion tons of freight in 2017, or 77 percent of all freight tonnage that was moved across the nation. This demand is anticipated to grow to nearly 15 billion tons by 2040.
- Rail: The volume of freight being moved on the nation’s railways is projected to grow from 1.7 billion tons in 2017 to nearly 2 billion tons by 2040. Ports and Inland Waterways: In 2017, 766 million tons of freight moved by water. The total movement of freight by water is projected to increase to over 1 billion tons by 2040.
- Pipelines: Over 3 billion ton of petroleum, chemicals, and other products were transported by pipeline in 2017. This is anticipated to grow to nearly 5 billion tons by 2040.
- Air: Air freight movement totaled 5 million tons in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the industry, reporting a 11.7 percent decrease in total demand in 2020 from the previous year. This is expected to be a short-term impact and the growth of air freight will rise again.
- International Freight Movement: Total freight imported and exported by all modes to and from U.S. origins and destinations totaled 4 billion tons in 2017 and grew to 4.2 billion tons in 2020.
Improving the efficient and safe flow of freight across all modes of transportation is critical to the health of the U. S. economy and to protect the future of the nation's global competitiveness.
An efficient and economical freight transportation system is critical for the transport of both raw materials and finished products which support business and industry. An efficient national freight transportation network allows businesses to cost effectively provide for the transportation of goods, which thereby helps control production costs and enhances productivity and profits. It allows U.S. business to be competitive in the global marketplace and for the nation's economy to prosper and grow. The U.S. needs to increase its policy focus and priority in funding for strategic investments in freight mobility that can reduce congestion and grow the economy in a more sustainable manner.
ASCE Policy Statement 546
First Approved in 2015