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Policy Statement 149 - Intermodal Transportation Systems


Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 16, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on June 4, 2017
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 29, 2017


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports developing a national intermodal transportation system that promotes the movement of people and freight in a safe, secure, economically efficient, seamless, and sustainable manner. An infrastructure with these qualities allows the United States to compete in the increasingly global economy.  


A national intermodal transportation program is needed to provide flexible transportation options using highways, air, water, railways, and other intermodal systems to move people and freight. Developing a unified system is currently hindered by a lack of national focus on intermodal connectivity, as well as the difficulty of forming partnerships between competing private firms. A national program would promote:

  • collaboration among separate transportation agencies;
  • cost-effective planning, design and construction of intermodal connections
  • equality in federal matching ratios for all transportation modes; and
  • consolidation of funding for intermodal projects.


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 movement of freight intermodally is growing - intermodal shipments have increased by approximately 60% over the past 15 years and are expected to keep growing. U.S. freight shipments are expected to increase by approximately 40% by 2040 (U.S. Department of Transportation. Draft national Strategic Freight Plan. 

The goal of a national program would be to provide funding and incentives, for intermodal projects that would relieve congestion, improve transportation safety, and facilitate international trade. Developing a national intermodal surface transportation program would require that the current transportation program's regulations and operations be restructured to ensure that agencies work collaboratively to integrate different modes of transportation.

ASCE Policy Statement 149 
First Approved pre-1974