Federal Transportation Bill Should Clean Up Dirtiest, Fastest Growing Transportation Sector: Freight

March 15, 2010



Contact: Sean Crowley, 202.572.3331, scrowley@edf.org  
David Goldberg, T4America, 202-412-7930, david.goldberg@t4america.org  

(Washington, DC—March 15, 2010) Congress should include comprehensive funding policies for the first time in the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill to both modernize freight transportation and clean it up by favoring innovations like those highlighted in a new report released today during a 1pm teleconference call (800-935-9319). Freight transportation currently is the most polluting and fastest growing transportation sector.

The clean freight innovation locations include, but are not limited to: Southern California; Chicago; Seattle; Norfolk, Virginia; and along the Gulf Coast between Port Manatee, Florida and Brownsville, Texas. (The report, video version of it and fact sheets are at: www.edf.org/goodhaul).

The report is timely since Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently vowed to take up a transportation reauthorization bill this year, and the EPW Committee has initiated a series of hearings on issues to be addressed in the bill. Senator Boxer has said she would use the $500 billion bill already introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as a framework.

“This report provides a roadmap for modernizing the U.S. freight system, making it more reliable and faster, and reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution,” says Kathryn Phillips, director of the California Transportation and Air Initiative at Environmental Defense Fund, whose staff produced the report. “House and Senate committees writing the transportation bill should ensure funding for freight improvement delivers environmental benefits too. This report shows it can be done.”
The report, The Good Haul, details 28 case studies of clean freight solutions that exist in the United States and internationally. Congress should direct any freight improvement funding to encourage clean freight solutions to improve freight’s performance and protect public health and the environment.

“Now is ideal time to tackle these challenges,” says James Corless, director of Transportation for America, a coalition of more than 450 organizations nationwide focused on creating a national transportation program for the 21st century by modernizing our infrastructure and building healthy communities. “The upcoming reauthorization of the federal transportation bill is a great opportunity to help achieve a smarter, greener freight system.”

Freight delivers nearly everything we buy, eat, manufacture, or build with to us via a complex system of shipping routes, rail lines, highways, ports, and rail yards. Unfortunately, U.S. freight movement represents 25 percent of transportation’s contributions to greenhouse gases, and its share of emissions is climbing twice as fast as passenger travel. By 2020, more than 90 million tons of freight are expected to move throughout the United States per day, a 70 percent increase from 2002.

Freight air pollution is an enormous health threat. The fine particle pollution from U.S. diesel engines—the most common engines used in freight—is estimated to shorten the lives of more than 20,000 people each year.  The California Air Resources Board estimates that in 2005 freight-related pollution and health effects cost the state nearly $20 billion and caused about 2,400 premature deaths, 2,000 respiratory-related hospital admissions, more than 60,000 asthma and lower respiratory cases, 360,000 lost work days, and more than 1 million lost school days. .
Below are brief summaries of some a few case studies featured in The Good Haul:

• Southern California: The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach launched the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006, which cleans up all areas of port activity: trucks, cargo handling equipment, locomotives, ships, even tug boats. Since implementation 18 months ago, the plan already has taken 2,000 dirty diesel trucks off the road and has created more than 3,000 jobs at the Port of Los Angeles alone. Video of Port of LA clean freight innovations is at: ww.edf.org/goodhaul.  

• Chicago: The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program (CREATE) aims to reduce congestion and improve air quality by streamlining four major rail lines. Chicago handles nearly 30 percent of rail freight revenue and expects to see an 89 percent increase in rail traffic over the next 30 years. The program will result in more than $1 billion in health care savings from improved air quality and generate economic activity valued at more than $525 million. The program expects to create 2,700 annual jobs.

• Seattle: BNSF Railway installed four electric wide-span, rail-mounted gantry cranes at the Seattle International Gateway (SIG) intermodal facility. The cranes’ wide footprints allow them to span three tracks, stack containers and load and unload both trucks and railcars. The cranes produce zero onsite emissions and have increased throughput by 30 percent at the facility.

• Norfolk, Virginia: The Port of Virginia’s Green Goat hybrid yard switcher, a rail locomotive that moves short distances within a rail yard, provides fuel savings between 40-60 percent and is predicted to reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions between 80-90 percent annually.

• Along the Gulf Coast: Sea Bridge Freight, a coastal shipping service between Port Manatee, Florida and Brownsville, Texas, avoids an average of nearly 1,400 miles of congested highways. Compared to trucking, one Sea Bridge barge has the capacity to remove 400,000 truck highway miles on a single one-way voyage.

• Germany: Toll Collect, a distance-based GPS truck tolling system, with a category for engine emissions, has encouraged a shift to cleaner engines. The cleanest Euro V truck engines have increased from less than 1 percent in 2005 to more than 50 percent in 2008. Since 2007, Toll Collect has seen revenues of 3.4 billion euros ($4.6 billion).

• Norfolk Southern: This railway, which operates 21,500 route miles in 22 eastern states, is testing a battery-powered locomotive that produces zero onsite emissions with costs comparable to diesel-powered locomotives.