The Department of Transportation yesterday officially launched the Freight Policy Council, the first step in creating the first national freight policy as mandated in the recent highway bill. The council will focus on improving the condition and performance of the national freight network to better ensure the ability of the United States to compete in today's global economy.

The council will develop a national, intermodal plan for improving the efficiency of freight movement and will work with states to encourage development of a forward-looking state freight strategy.

"Our freight system is the lifeblood of the American economy, moving goods quickly and efficiently to benefit both businesses and consumers across the country," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "With the launch of the Freight Policy Council, we have an opportunity to make not only our freight system, but all modes of transportation, stronger and better connected."

The recent transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, signed by President Obama last month, established a national freight policy and called for the creation of a National Freight Strategic Plan. The DOT's Freight Policy Council will implement the key freight provisions of the legislation. A strong freight transportation system is essential for helping meet President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015, LaHood noted.

The highway bill provision gives DOT three years to come up with a national freight strategic plan based on the condition of the freight network. Specifically, the plan must look at bottlenecks, forecasts of freight volume, and trade corridors. In addition, DOT must develop new ways to evaluate freight-related infrastructure projects. This council is the first step.

The council will be chaired by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari. It will include DOT leadership overseeing highways, rail, ports and airports, plus economic and policy experts from across the administration. The freight and logistics industries, consumers and other stakeholders will also play an advisory role, and states will be asked to offer proposals for improving the freight system in their region.

"With increasing competition abroad, Washington businesses require a 21st century approach to moving goods," said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). "This new Freight Policy Council provides the roadmap our nation needs to stay competitive and grow our trade economy."

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