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Integrated Intemodal Transportation System

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Innovation and change are needed the way transportation is planned to assure other modes are integrated with wayports to form an effective long-term transportation system.

Airports, rail and highways are planned independent of each other rather than as an integrated system. They compete for funding at all levels of government. Separate funding means separate planning; thus, a transportation system that is not integrated.   

It's therefore necessary to break with the past and address near and long-term intermodal transportation in a way that integrates Wayports and major airports with other modes of transportation. New innovative, non-traditional and cost efficient approaches must be adopted.

To accomplish this important objective requires change in planning and decision-making that goes beyond existing political jurisdictions and traditional methods and processes. 

A vision and plan for an "Integrated Intermodal Transportation System" (IITS) that addresses long-term nationwide transportation policies and programs is needed. The IITS should be addressed with the priority as the Interstate Highway System when it was created.

To initiate this, Congress should include the following in appropriate pending legislation.

"The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is directed to develop a concept for an "Integrated Intermodal Transportation System" (IITS). Intermodal links between trains, highways, airports, urban and metropolitan areas and economic centers will be addressed as well as the organization to administer the program. Existing programs and activities currently under the control of the Federal government will be evaluated for inclusion in the IITS Program.  A preliminary report will be submitted to an IITS Commission in six months and a final report to Congress within one year."

The USDOT would recommend how an IITS would be planned, managed and funded.

Leadership from the highest levels of federal, state, local government and industry (including advocates and opposition groups) should be members of the IITS Commission. This will assure issues are properly debated while respecting different views on how best to accomplish nationwide intermodal transportation goals. Issues that should be addressed in the study are:     

  • New innovative alternatives that integrate high-speed and regional train systems, highways and airports into an effective and efficient long-term nationwide intermodal transportation system.
  • The need to reduce air pollution, noise, impacts on public health and wasted time of users of the existing congested transportation system.
  • The importance of national leadership in reaching consensus with local and state leaders on plans for nationwide and regional intermodal transportation systems that will meet future growth.
  • The importance of air transportation as an intermodal component of the framework for global travel since there are no roads linking North America to other continents and ships are too slow.

The federal government must get more involved.  President Eisenhower recognized this when he created the "Interstate Highway System". He knew the federal government was the only entity that could transcend state and local politics and interests to plan a nationwide system of highways. 

When a nationwide air traffic control and airway system was needed, Congress authorized the federal government to plan, implement, operate and maintain it because there was no local or state entity that could do this.   

It is time to go beyond separate air and surface transportation funding legislation like AIR 21 and TEA 21. Metropolitan, Regional and State System Plans addressing intermodal transportation are mostly advisory.  If joint funding of air and surface transportation systems does not take place on the federal level, one cannot expect regional, state and local air and surface transportation systems planners to work together.

A major component of legislation is the most effective and less polluting mix of air and surface transportation systems that is possible. Preference should be given to surface modes of transportation, particularly high-speed rail that, at least on regional and short haul distances, is considered as efficient as air shuttles.

Large hub airports now serving domestic and international markets cannot be expanded to meet long-term transportation demand because of unaffordable financial, environmental and public health impacts. These expansions have been done in the past with federal government approval where viable integrated intermodal alternatives were not given in-depth evaluations.

Alternatives must be evaluated that reduce impacts of noise, air pollution and surface congestion in urban areas and airports.  

For years, if local or state governments wanted to expand their airports, federal policy left it entirely up to them to decide what was needed without looking at other viable alternatives likes trains.  

Airports must depend on others to plan and construct off-site road and rail systems, since they are prohibited from spending airport funds for this purpose. The pilot study of intermodal access to 5 airports proposed by Congress in H.R. 915 evidences the need for an IITS. Studies should be managed by an IITS Commission and not a lone federal agency using a limited source of funds managed by local airports.   

Supplemental airports that would relieve and off-load the existing congested commercial airport system should be considered as a component of the IITS. See http://www.wayports.com/

Continued congestion could make it necessary to ration highway and airport access using congestion management, selling slots and peak hour pricing. Rationing is an admission of failure and a reflection on America's creativeness and spirit of innovation that is the key to the future.

Implementation of IITS is a more acceptable and efficient way to meet long-term transportation demands. Action to reduce and eliminate delays and congestion on the ground and in the air will save billions of dollars for industry, government and passengers and reduce harmful impacts on public health.