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Report Shows Economy Needs Freight Infrastructure Investments

Tue July 13, 2010 - Northeast Edition
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Freight volume will double in 40 years, resulting in 50 percent more trucks on highways and straining air, rail and port capacity, according to a new report highlighted by Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

The national Unlocking Freight report was released July 8 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

“This report outlines what’s at stake if we fail to invest to meet the growing demands on our transportation infrastructure,” Rendell said. “This includes the roads, rails, and seaports we need to move raw materials and goods to market and keep our economy globally competitive.

“The findings echo the concerns that I — along with Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Bloomberg — have raised across the nation through the Building America’s Future coalition. We know that the capacity of our nation’s roads, rails and seaports is simply not keeping pace with demand. For example, between 1980 and 2006, traffic on the Interstate Highway System increased by 150 percent while interstate capacity grew by only 15 percent.

“As the gateway to the Northeast, Pennsylvania gets more than our share of truck traffic. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of six states — along with Arkansas, California, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas — that collectively account for 88 percent of the most heavily used truck routes.”

The governor noted that congestion is only going to worsen as the population grows and as the economy grows. In the next two decades, the number of trucks on the road will increase by 50 percent. This means that by 2030:

• The number of trucks on I-81 will increase from nearly 10,000 trucks per day now to 15,000 trucks per day;

• The number of trucks on I-80 will increase from nearly 9,000 trucks per day now to more than 13,000 trucks per day;

• The number of trucks on I-95 will increase from 16,000 trucks per day now to more than 24,000 trucks per day;

• The number of trucks on I-90 in the northwest will increase from nearly 7,000 trucks per day now to more 10,000 trucks per day;

• The number of trucks on I-78 in the east will increase from more than 12,600 trucks per day now to nearly 19,000 trucks per day; and

• The number of trucks on I-579 in Allegheny County will increase from more than 12,000 trucks now to more 18,000 trucks per day.

Since 2003, Pennsylvania has increased rail freight investments from $14.3 million to $66.5 million last year.

“We are only scratching the surface of what is actually needed to meet the demand,” Rendell said. “That is why I have called for a Special Session on Transportation to resume later this month.

“We also are aggressively applying for federal assistance and leveraging public-private partnerships to accomplish our goals,” he said, noting that Pennsylvania is the lead state on an application seeking federal funding for the Norfolk Southern Crescent Corridor.

Along with four other states, Pennsylvania is applying for $115 million for improvements to the corridor that stretches from Alabama to the Keystone state for the Crescent Corridor. This includes $33 million to expand the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Facility in Harrisburg, where the announcement was made, and the Philadelphia Navy Yard Intermodal Facility.

If fully funded, the Crescent Corridor would create or preserve more than 73,000 jobs in the partnering states including 26,000 in Pennsylvania.

AASHTO’s report said that in freight movement alone, including truckers, railroad conductors, warehouse operators and many others, there are more than 10 million workers nationwide. A recent American Road and Transportation Builders Association study said that in Pennsylvania, there are nearly 149,000 transportation-related jobs.

“This report is a valuable resource to understand the freight capacity issues facing the nation and what we can do today to meet upcoming challenges,” the governor said.

Unlocking Freight is the second in a series of reports generated by AASHTO to identify the need to increase transportation system capacity.

For more information, visit

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