On September 3, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released the department’s first-ever National Freight Strategic Plan (NFSP), which provides planning guidance that supports the efficient movement of freight. According to DOT, the NFSP provides policy guidance that aims to improve the safety, security and resilience of the national freight system, and recommendations to modernize freight infrastructure and operations to grow the economy and increase competitiveness.
Accounting for all seven million miles of the America’s freight transportation system, the plan emphasizes the need for a strong and robust intergovernmental partnership in achieving the nation’s freight-related infrastructure goals. As owners of more road miles than any other public entity, counties play a significant role in the movement of America’s freight, especially rural counties. According to DOT, two-thirds of the nation’s rail freight originates in rural areas, making our local roads and bridges extremely vital to the efficient movement of goods around the country and, ultimately, the globe.
As major leaders in the nation’s transportation systems, counties work closely with freight industry leaders to improve America’s rail network. NACo recently signed onto a letter from the Association of American Railroads supporting a continued balanced regulatory approach to freight rail that facilities economic competitiveness. Additionally, NACo is championing rail safety issues by advocating for a new discretionary grant program that provides counties with direct federal funding opportunities to address at-grade rail-highway crossings. The U.S. House recently included a provision in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, that would address NACo’s Transportation Committee resolution by providing $2.5 billion in direct, competitive funding opportunities to local governments to eliminate at-grade crossings.