DOT program funds H2O freight lanes

WASHINGTON — As part of its efforts to take trucks off of the roads, the U.S. DOT has launched a program that subsidizes rivers and coastal routes that can take on freight and bypass congested lanes around ports.

America’s Marine Highway rule, announced by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this week, is part of a national initiative by the federal government to promote short-sea marine shipping and reduce commercial highway transportation.

"For too long, we’ve overlooked the economic and environmental benefits that our waterways and domestic seaports offer as a means of moving freight in this country," LaHood said at the annual North American Marine Highways and Logistics Conference in Baltimore, Md. "Moving goods on the water has many advantages: It reduces air pollution. It can help reduce gridlock by getting trucks off our busy surface corridors."

Under the new regulation, regional transportation officials will be able to apply to have specific transportation corridors — and even individual projects — designated by DOT as a "marine highway" if they meet certain criteria.

Once designated, these projects or marine lanes will receive "preferential treatment" for any future federal assistance.

The Marine Highway initiative stems from a 2007 law requiring the Secretary of Transportation to "establish a short sea transportation program and designate short sea transportation projects to mitigate surface congestion." 

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