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Policy Statement 149 - Intermodal Transportation Systems

 
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on April 3, 2020
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 11, 2020
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 11, 2020

Policy

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. Infrastructure with these qualities allows the United States to compete in the increasingly global economy. 

ASCE supports programs with significant infrastructure investment and improvements 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.
  • Implementing the National Strategic Freight Plan under the FAST Act.
  • Investing in infrastructure upgrades that remove bottlenecks within our transportation networks.

Issue

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 would promote and address: 

  • Collaboration among separate transportation agencies;
  • Cost-effective planning, design, construction, and operation of intermodal connections;
    Private-public partnerships and funding for intermodal projects;
  • Changes in the movement of freight such as the introduction of post-Panamax cargo ships, double-stack railcars, and just in time inventory delivery; and
  • Changes in consumer behavior creating demand for overnight and same day delivery of household goods and products.

Rationale

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 inter-modally is growing. In 2015 the US transportation system moved approximately 49 million tons of freight per day worth more than $52 billon.  U.S. freight shipments are expected to increase by approximately 44% between 2015 and 2045 (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 resiliency, 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


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