Cargo and Freight

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Energy production in North Dakota and Alberta continues to grow, and producers are counting on railroads to help them get crude oil to market. Much of this oil comes to or through the Midwest. The dangers of shipping oil by rail were most recently demonstrated when two trains collided near Fargo, N.D., on Dec. 30, leading to a derailment. Explosions and fire in at least 10 oil-carrying cars followed, and the town of Casselton had to be evacuated.

State capitals were where the action was in 2013, with six states approving significant revenue packages and a number of others setting in motion plans for 2014, when the activity is expected to continue around the country. Some of the attention now shifts back to Washington as Congress must again consider legislation to authorize federal transportation programs and decide what to do about the dwindling Highway Trust Fund and as the legacy of the 2012 legislation, known as MAP-21, is cemented. Meanwhile public-private partnerships, which have helped some states fund pricey transportation projects and weather fiscal uncertainty in recent years, will likely continue to evolve in the year ahead. All this as officials at all levels of government and other stakeholders continue to seek approaches to ensure the vision of a multi-modal future for communities and commerce is realized. Here’s my expanded article on the top 5 issues in transportation for 2014 and a wide variety of additional CSG and non-CSG resources where you can read more.

With the government shutdown continuing into a second week, there may be a whole lot less bureaucracy in Washington these days. But that actually may be throwing up some roadblocks for the completion of transportation projects around the country. I also have links to some recent reports on performance measurement, transportation funding and why some public-private partnerships fail.

While 2013 has been a big year for states considering and approving new transportation revenues, there are signs that a number of states are still struggling to figure out how to pay for maintaining their infrastructure. There’s a plan in Texas to convert some drilling-affected roads to gravel. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has started posting weight restrictions on some of its bridges. I also have a number of other recent items below to catch you up on the last couple of weeks and provide plenty of reading material through the long holiday weekend.

The final morning of CSG’s Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon featured a transportation policy roundtable, which included a presentation on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Greg DiLoreto is the 2013 President of ASCE and since 1999 has served as General Manager and CEO for the second largest water utility in Oregon, the Tualatin Valley Water District, which serves over 200,000 in the west Portland metro area. He told policy academy attendees the infrastructure grades in the new report card aren’t acceptable and America is paying a heavy price.

The CSG Transportation Policy Academy got underway July 18th with a tour of the Port of Portland, a diversified facility that is critical to the state’s economy. Attendees heard from the port’s Community Affairs Tour and Outreach Manager Brooke Berglund and State Government Relations Manager Annette Price about the port’s imprint and about how it has benefitted from a state grant and loan program called Connect Oregon that has helped fund key upgrades to aviation, marine and rail infrastructure.

The ongoing Panama Canal expansion is perhaps the most transformative global transportation project now in progress. Upon completion in 2014, the expanded Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and will substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States. The impetus for the expansion of the Canal, approved by the people of Panama in October 2006, sprang from that nation’s desire to continue as a pivotal player in global trade patterns and strategically leverage its greatest asset—the Panama Canal—for its own economic well-being. 

Efforts by states and communities to move forward with infrastructure investment were among the reasons some areas of transportation saw improvement in recent years, according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that provides a treasure trove of information for state officials about exactly what the nation faces.

CSG's Senior Transportation Analyst Sean Slone outlines the top five issues for 2013, including implementation of the new transportation authorization bill, future transportation financing options, America's infrastructure needs, and preparing for an expanded Panama Canal. 

While 2012 saw Congress finally take action on a federal surface transportation authorization bill, much of the action in 2013 could shift to state capitals and set the stage for what’s likely to be a pivotal 2014. Here’s my list of the top 5 issues in transportation for 2013 and some additional resources where you can read more.