Preparing transportation infrastructure to cope with freight movements requires a multimodal approach that involves issues ranging from key trucking corridors to rail operations to dredging of coastal and inland waterways, said Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
"We've maintained a global philosophy or a broad philosophy of transportation," he said. "We've been a department of transportation for a number of years; we have not been a department of highways necessarily from a policy perspective."
Wilson made the comments at a May 17 Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Association of Port Authorities. It included officials from the port, rail and trucking industries and was part of this year's "Infrastructure Week" agenda. A video of the speakers' presentations is
available at AASHTO's YouTube channel.
Other participants were Port of Port Arthur (Texas) Deputy Director Larry Kelley; David Manning, president of Nashville-based intermodal truck and warehousing company TCW and first vice chairman of the American Trucking Association; and Roger Nober, chief legal officer for BNSF Railway. The moderator was Molly Campbell, port commerce director for the Port of New York and New Jersey.
Wilson said while his department's funding has mostly gone to highways, since last August it has
also had a multimodal commerce commissioner "whose role is to fill the gaps where our freight community may be struggling." One result, he said, is a focus on container-on-barge opportunities to move goods within the state on inland waterways and reduce transportation costs.
For freight traffic, Wilson said transportation officials must "think about all of those weak spots on the system."
For instance, he said, Louisiana has two major truck-congestion areas for mid-sized cities in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, congestion points that in turn affect deep-water shipping.
"When you talk to folks at the Port of New Orleans," he said, "they will tell you it's more important that they get their products through Baton Rouge on time to be able to make their ports of call and their disbursements and shipments."
Wilson also said his department has budgeted funds, outside of what it receives for freight programs under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, for intermodal or multimodal connector projects.
He said DOTD officials can't just think about truckers and their highway transportation needs "if we don't think about where are the goods and services that they're going to be needing to move. How did they get there? How do they exchange to our rail partners?"
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