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Policy Statement 546 - Freight Mobility

Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on April 13, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a national intermodal freight mobility program that is flexible, efficient, robust, and environmentally sustainable; provides a 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 completion and implementation of a National Freight Strategic Plan as required under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that: 

  • Provides a comprehensive national freight transportation policy which addresses 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;
  • Recognizes 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;
  • Identifies existing and anticipated future national, multimodal freight networks;
  • Identifies a mechanism to prioritize and provide funding for public and private multimodal freight improvement projects; 
  • Encourages 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 and provide incentives for additional private investment in freight transportation facilities needed to maintain and improve the condition and performance of the network;
  • Provides 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 delivers infrastructure projects to shorten project delivery times and decrease costs; 
  • Expands multimodal flexibility and encourage multimodal solutions to address performance issues;
  • Provides for the seamless transfer of freight between transport modes at intermodal connection points to alleviate bottlenecks for freight movement, and add capacity to freight facilities; and 
  • Accommodates 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.  


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 U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that by the year 2045, there will be a 41 percent increase in demand for freight movement from 18 billion to 25.4 billion tons across the nation by all modes of transport combined. 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 10.8 billion tons of freight in 2015, or 60 percent of all freight tonnage that is moved in the U.S. This demand is anticipated to grow to 14.8 billion tons by 2045.
  • Rail: The volume of freight being moved on the nation's railways continues to grow and is expected to increase by 20 percent from 1.6 to 1.9 billion tons by 2045.
  • Ports and Inland Waterways:  In 2015, 884 million tons of freight moved by water.  The total movement of freight by water is projected to increase by 24 percent to 1.1 billion tons by 2045.
  • Pipelines:  A total of 3.3 billion tons of petroleum, chemicals and other products were transported by pipeline in 2015.  This is anticipated to grow by 34 percent to 4.5 billion tons by 2045.
  • Air:  Air freight movement, excluding parcels, mail and courier, totaled 10 million tons in 2015.  This is anticipated to increase to 37 million tons by 2045.
  • International Freight Movement: Total freight Imported and exported by all modes to and from U.S origins and destinations totaled 2 billion tons by 2015 and is expected to increase to 4.4 billion tons in 2045. 

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