U.S.A. Domestic Market
Fifty years ago, the United States developed the Interstate Highway System to move goods to market, deploy military assets in time of National Emergency, and complement an established rail system. The development of rail and highway in the United States has been the foundation of the U.S. domestic intermodal system. These two transportation modes continue to deliver products to the American consumer who is largely responsible for powering the global economy today.
Growth in trade and the U.S. economy has placed a burden on the U.S. transportation infrastructure. Both rail and highway have reached or exceeded capacity in many areas of the country and the cost to expand that capacity is enormous. An example of this over burden is the recent reports by The American Society of Civil Engineers, which rates over twenty-five percent of our country's 599,893 bridges as either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete." They also estimate that improving the surface transportation infrastructure would require $155.5 billion annually. ¹
Logistic companies and indeed our national security desperately need an alternative to the current rail and highway system that is capable of complementing the existing modes while adding needed capacity and redundancy.
To underscore this need, the U.S. Department of Transportation undertook in 2002 a first ever comprehensive past, current and most importantly, forward projection of domestic and international freight movements across all modes and its corollary impact on the nations transportation infrastructure. This Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) study made some startling findings which include the following²:
- The U. S. transportation system carried over 15 billion tons of freight valued at over $9 trillion in 1998.
- Domestic freight movements accounted for nearly $8 trillion of the total value of shipments.
- The nationís highway system, and our enormous truck fleet, moved 71 percent of the total tonnage and 80 percent of the total value of U.S. shipments in 1998.
- Although trucks made the vast majority of local deliveries, they also carried large volumes of freight between regional and national markets.
- Water and rail also moved significant shares of total tonnage, but they accounted for much smaller shares when measured on a value basis.
- Domestic freight volumes will grow by more than 65 percent, increasing from 13.5 billion tons in 1998 to 22.5 billion tons in 2020.
- Trucks will experience the fastest overall growth and are expected to move over 75 percent more tons in 2020. (The trucking industry is targeted to be the largest retail customer of RO/RO high speed shipping!)
- International trade accounted for 12 percent of total U.S. freight tonnage in 1998 and is forecast to grow faster than domestic trade.
- International trade is projected to increase by 2.8 percent annually between 1998 and 2020, nearly doubling in volume. This growth in international trade is likely to present challenges to U.S. ports and border gateways.
The FAF identified many potential "bottlenecks" likely to appear by 2020 across the nations' roadways. These bottlenecks or congestion gridlocks are illustrated in Figure 2 and show that the Northeast of the U.S. will be particularly hard hit.
Fig.2 Estimated highway "bottlenecks" by 2020 in the U.S.
In its "Corridors of the Future" the U.S.DOT cited present and future congestion as one of the single largest threats to America's economic prosperity and way of life. Congestion now draws close to $200 billion per year from the U.S. economy.³
"If power blackouts drained billions of dollars from the economy each year, it would be considered a crisis of unacceptable proportion. Yet many accept the fact that Americans squander 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel each year sitting in traffic jams and waste $9.4 billion as a result." (Remarks made by Secretary Mineta to the National Retail Federation, May 16, 2006)
As demand for freight service grows, concerns have intensified about capacity shortfalls, congestion, safety, and the environment. Likewise, the events of September 11 have heightened concerns about the vulnerability of the freight transportation system to terrorist attacks. Consequently, understanding and improving freight flows are becoming higher priority issues among decision makers at all levels of government and in the private sector.
FAF estimates that even with growth in air-freight, maritime, and rail services, about 29 percent of the urban Nations Highway Systems (NHS) will be congested, with an additional 13 percent approaching congestion, during peak periods in 2020. By comparison, 10 percent of the urban NHS was congested in 1998. In terms of functional class, urban Interstates are and will continue to be the most traveled segments, with congestion reaching 53 percent in 2020.
The stark reality is this: unless we are prepared to "double-deck" I-95 from Maine to Florida, I-10 from Florida through Texas, and I-5 from California to Washington; and to provide the railroads with significant new right-of-way expansion through prime private real estate holdings via the governments' use of Eminent Domain; there is no other choice than to make maximum use of our "Highways of the Sea" now named America's Marine Highways.
¹ Jackson, Henry, "Minnesota Bridge Total Far Less Than Feared".
² (Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration Freight Analysis Framework October 2002 FHWA-OP-03-006(R)
³ DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION:Corridors of the Future Program [Federal Register: September 5, 2006