The U.S. should build a new, intermodal transportation system that incorporates both freight and passenger rail to meet future transportation needs, according to Gil Carmichael, founding chairman of the board of directors of the Intermodal Transportation Institute
at the University of Denver. At the recent 68th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Carmichael called for an initiative involving both the public and private sectors, which would be funded through two, new intermodal trust funds, one for freight movement and one for passenger transit.

"The Interstate Highway System that was built has served us well," Carmichael said. "But today we have a population that has doubled in 50 years; we have a deteriorating and badly congested transportation infrastructure that cannot meet consumer demand; and we have a growing global economy that requires interconnected, intermodal transportation. The solution to meeting this century's challenges lies in building 'Interstate 2.0', an ethical, fuel efficient, intercity, rail freight and passenger transportation system that reconnects our center cities, bus and transit lines, energizes our economy, and sustains our environment.

To achieve this holistic approach to transportation, Carmichael recommends using the U.S. 240,000 miles of existing rail Rights of Way and upgrading 30,000 miles of tracks to a high-speed, grade-separated track. "We should provide the private railroads with a 25 percent investment tax credit to encourage them to upgrade and double- and triple-track their main lines to increase speeds and double capacity," he said.

Similar to the way the Interstate Highway System built up the highway trust fund through the gas tax, Carmichael's plan would involve two new intermodal trust funds, which would be funded through one tax for intermodal freight movement and another for passenger transit. "And it would be simple to implement cost per mile traveled rather than cents per gallon," he said.

Carmichael also calls for the states' DOTs to develop two separate departments for intermodal freight transport and passenger transit. "We can no longer afford to administer effective transportation policy on a single mode basis," he said.

The new transportation structure should also utilize new technologies, such as GPS and PTC, to make the system work, Carmichael says. His last suggestion is to increase freight capacity and stimulate the economy.

"A major public-works project of this magnitude will add millions of new and permanent jobs, will produce a prosperous economy, just as Interstate I did, and will build a long-lasting, truly sustainable transportation system," said Carmichael. "We can electrify the rails by mid-century, producing a new source of energy and weaning ourselves off of our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. It will then be an ethical and sustainable system that increases freight capacity and protects our environment."

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