The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) isn't mincing words.
In its new report Unlocking Freight, AASHTO says the US freight transportation system is facing a crisis, and that the nation's highways, railroads, ports, waterways, and airports require investments well beyond current levels to maintain much less improve their performance.
Despite the fact that an increasing amount of freight is being moved by intermodal rail, the report estimates that trucks still carry 74 percent of the long-distance freight load. That means 10,500 trucks, on average, travel some segments of the Interstate Highway System each day. AASHTO says that by 2035, this number will increase to 22,700 commercial trucks for these portions of the Interstate, with the most heavily used segments seeing upwards of 50,000 trucks a day.
Based on current levels of investment, it doesn't seem likely that the transportation system will be able to adequately support this kind of growth. After all, between 1980 and 2006, traffic on the Interstate Highway System increased by 150 percent, but Interstate capacity increased significantly less by only a measly 15 percent. Of course, the end result of that kind of imbalance is frequent gridlock, and AASHTO says that already bottlenecks on major highways used by truckers every day are adding millions of dollars to the cost of food, goods, and manufacturing equipment for American consumers.
"The simple fact is: no transportation, no economy. They are inseparable," says AASHTO President and Mississippi DOT Executive Director Larry L. "Butch" Brown. "We must invest to maintain and strengthen the American transconomy.'"
More information and examples of freight capacity needs by state are available at http://expandingcapacity.transportation.org.