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Highlights

The strong productivity gains in the U.S. economy have hinged in part on transportation networks working more efficiently. The nation's ports, which handle 95 percent of overseas freight tonnage, are a key link in this network, and efficient intermodal links between ship, rail, and highways are vital to continued productivity gains. GAO was asked to address (1) the challenges to freight mobility, (2) the limitations key stakeholders have encountered in addressing these challenges, and (3) strategies that may aid decision makers in enhancing freight mobility. GAO's work was based on a synthesis of previous studies and a review of conditions at 10 ports and surrounding areas that handle almost two-thirds of all containers moving in and out of the country.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation 1. To encourage the use of sound evaluation and data collection efforts among state and local transportation planners, the Secretary of Transportation should develop evaluation approaches for state and local planners to use in making freight-related and other transportation investment decisions and actively work with transportation planners to achieve implementation of these approaches. In developing these approaches, DOT should promote the incorporation of key elements of effective planning, including systematic cost-benefit analyses, evaluation of noncapital alternatives, inclusion of external benefits (e.g., congestion and pollution costs), and routine performance of retrospective evaluations.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed and delivered a Freight Professional Development Program that includes an intermodal approach to advancing freight. The program is intended to help create awareness of freight issues among the public sector, improve evaluation tools for planning and decision-making, improve freight operations, and engage private sector stakeholders in project development. It is also intended to facilitate multi-jurisdictional approaches to solving freight issues and foster intermodal approaches to advancing freight productivity. For example, the program included a "Talking Freight" seminar series via net conference on topics such as freight data and modeling, short sea shipping, and linking freight to economic development. In addition, FHWA began a new training course "Integrating Freight in the Transportation Planning Process".
Department of Transportation 2. To encourage the use of sound evaluation and data collection efforts among state and local transportation planners, the Secretary of Transportation should facilitate the collection of freight-relevant data that would allow state and local planners to develop and use a broad range of evaluation methods and techniques, such as demand forecasts, modal diversion forecasts, estimates of effects of proposed investments on congestion and pollution, and other factors, as they make transportation investment choices.
Closed - Implemented
The agency has responded to the recommendation and it is closed. The agency said: "The Department's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed and continues to improve and deliver their Freight Professional Development (FPD) Program. This program pursues a multi/intermodal approach to advancing freight transportation through four main functions: Training, Education, Technical Assistance, and a Resource Library. The program provides technical assistance through a monthly "Talking Freight" seminar series delivered via web-based videoconference on many diverse topics, such as freight data and modeling, short sea shipping, statewide freight planning considerations, and linking freight to economic development. In addition, a Peer-to-Peer exchange will be available in FY06. The suite of training courses and workshops offered have expanded beyond the initial offerings of "Integrating Freight in the Transportation Planning Process", and "Multimodal Freight Forecasting", to "Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning", "Freight Data Made Simple", "Advanced Planning", "Freight and the Environment", and a workshop on "Financing Multimodal Freight Improvements". The Resource Library is growing significantly and an effort to catalogue noteworthy practices in performance metrics will be underway in FY06. The FPD program will help to create institutional awareness of freight issues at the local, state, and corridor levels, and improve evaluation tools for planning and decision making. It will also facilitate multi-jurisdictional approaches to solving freight issues and foster intermodal approaches to advancing freight productivity and security. Finally it will engage private sector stakeholders in the project development process, improve freight operations in a shared passenger/freight environment, and encourage consistent yet adaptable applications of data collection and analysis methodologies for state DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO).

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