Intermodal Freight Transportation:

Projects and Planning Issues

NSIAD-96-159: Published: Jul 9, 1996. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1996.

Additional Materials:


Benjamin F. Nelson
(202) 512-4128


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed intermodal freight transportation issues, focusing on: (1) the Department of Transportation's (DOT) efforts to track how states use Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) funds to facilitate intermodal transportation; (2) the nature and extent of ISTEA funds used by states for intermodal freight projects; (3) how some local and regional areas that handle large volumes of freight have considered intermodal freight transportation issues as part of their planning processes; (4) impediments some areas face in improving intermodal freight transportation; and (5) trends in intermodal freight transportation.

GAO found that: (1) DOT has not developed the statutorily required database on public and private intermodal transportation investments, or tracked how states use ISTEA funds for such projects; (2) DOT says that its limited role in allocating funds, states' inconsistent identification of projects, and intermodal projects' multiple financing sources make establishing the database difficult; (3) as of September 1995, 10 states had obligated about $35.6 million in ISTEA funds for 23 intermodal-freight-related projects; (4) as of December 1995, 9 states had obligated $68.4 million, or 36 percent of the $191.8 million in ISTEA funds authorized, for 20 priority intermodal freight projects; (5) the total amount of funds obligated for intermodal freight projects through the first four ISTEA fiscal years equals less than 1 percent of ISTEA funds apportioned to the states for highways and other nontransit infrastructure projects during the same period; (6) metropolitan planning organizations have to balance intermodal freight issues with a wide range of other transportation needs; (7) public transportation planners lack experience and planning tools for intermodal transportation, but states are slowly developing such expertise and tools; (8) local and regional planners are addressing problems specific to their areas; and (9) impediments to improving intermodal freight transportation include obtaining necessary proprietary information on freight movements and coordinating public and private-sector planning, but public-private partnerships may help overcome such impediments.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT concurred in part with this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should establish a definition of freight intermodal projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The recommendation was fully implemented.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the database on intermodal investments required by Title V of ISTEA is developed and maintained in accordance with the statute.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Feb 28, 2018

Jan 30, 2018

Jan 16, 2018

Dec 21, 2017

Dec 14, 2017

Dec 4, 2017

Nov 30, 2017

Nov 15, 2017

Nov 2, 2017

Oct 31, 2017

Looking for more? Browse all our products here