Plan would reduce roadway traffic by creating new ‘Marine Highways’

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The federal government will establish a new national network of marine highways to help move cargo across the country in order to cut congestion on some of the nation’s busiest highways, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Thomas Barrett announced Thursday, Oct. 8.

DOT’s “Marine Highways” initiative calls for the selection and designation of key maritime inland and coastal maritime corridors as marine highways, Barrett said. These routes will be eligible for up to $25 million in existing federal capital construction funds, he says, and the initiative also ensures that these communities will continue to qualify for up to $1.7 billion in federal highway congestion mitigation and air quality funds.

“This initiative does more than simply add new lines to a map,” Barrett says. “It makes our roads safer, expands our capacity for moving goods and reflects the kind of 21st century innovation we are going to need to be competitive in today’s global marketplace.”

Barrett says the initiative makes it easier for companies to take advantage of the new maritime routes by providing businesses with assistance in locating shippers willing to move goods by water. “These highways have no stoplights, traffic or potholes,” he says. “Sometimes transportation solutions require new concrete, but other times, the answer is as simple as using existing water.”

Barrett announced the new initiative, which is outlined in an interim final rule, during a visit to the Norfolk, Va.-based James River Barge Line. The new service plans to move cargo up the James River to Richmond, shifting more than 4,000 trucks’ worth of cargo off nearby Interstate 64 and onto the waterway.

The interim final rule is available for review here and will go into effect after a 120-day comment period.