Approaches to Mitigate Freight Congestion

GAO-09-163R Published: Nov 20, 2008. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 2008.
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Strong productivity gains in the U.S. economy hinge, in part, on transportation networks working efficiently. Continued development and efficient management of the nation's freight transportation system--especially highways and rail lines that connect international gateways and intermodal facilities to retailers, producers, and consumers--are important to sustaining the nation's competitive position in the global economy. However, the increasing congestion on the transportation system poses a threat to the efficient flow of the nation's goods and has strained the system in some locations. Moreover, recent growth in international trade has placed even greater pressures on ports, border crossings, and distribution hubs. Congestion delays that significantly constrain freight mobility in these areas could result in increased economic costs for the nation. The Federal Highway Administration has calculated that delays caused by highway bottlenecks cost the trucking industry alone more than $8 billion a year. Recognizing that freight congestion has been well-defined and studied, Congress asked us to research technologies and projects currently in place or in development that could improve freight mobility, including low-cost approaches. In doing our work, we learned that the National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP) is currently conducting a comprehensive research project to identify low-cost and quickly implementable approaches to address freight mobility constraints. To not duplicate NCFRP's efforts by conducting a similar review, we limited the scope of our work. Therefore, as agreed with your staff, this report provides high-level information on (1) the ongoing research project being conducted by NCFRP, and (2) examples of implemented or planned technologies and projects to improve freight mobility that fall under the two broad approaches we identified in our earlier report--efforts to increase the efficient use of existing infrastructure and to add new capacity to the transportation network.

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