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May 31, 2012 1:00 PM, EDT

Senator Asks DOT to Create Freight Initiative

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to create a multimodal freight initiative within the Department of Transportation.

“This initiative office should report directly to you, include a special assistant designated with specific responsibility for freight movement and endeavor to improve federal freight policy, planning, and investment across all modes,” Cantwell wrote in a letter to LaHood on Thursday.

Freight is projected to grow by as much as 27% by 2040 but the nation’s economic potential is hindered by traffic bottlenecks, Cantwell said, noting that congestion costs the economy $200 billion a year.

Strengthening the federal role in freight mobility could mean system-wide benefits that help the recovering economy “accommodate” increasing export and import trade, she wrote.

A freight initiative should aim to increase DOT’s ability to “prioritize and expedite” transportation projects without added staff and expense, Cantwell said.