WASHINGTON, D.C. — America’s waterways are a vital link in our national economy, supporting the movement of freight and goods from ports to inland processing centers. And, unfortunately, that water borne freight system is increasingly underfunded and facing serious challenges, according to a new report issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. America’s Marine Transportation System (MTS) — the nation’s coastal ports, inland waterways, and the Great Lakes — handled more than 2.3 billion tons of goods, which is the equivalent of 100 million fully loaded semi-trucks, and an estimated $1.96 trillion in combined domestic, import, and export freight in 2011.

The Waterborne Freight Transportation Bottom Line Report identifies threats to the future of the Marine Transportation System and offers a number of key findings and action alternatives. The action alternatives include the creation of a new Office of Multimodal Freight at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the implementation of best practices for planning and investment among federal, state, regional, and local organizations to improve and modernize waterborne freight transportation to make the United States competitive in the 21st Century.

"The bottom line is that we cannot continue business as usual," said Bud Wright, AASHTO Executive Director. "Freight impacts the day-to-day lives of every American; from the clothes we wear, to the food we eat. We look forward to working with Congress to make a renewed commitment to the national marine transportation network by improving the way we plan and fund this vital link in the nation’s transportation system."

The report was released during a conference call with the news media led by Commonwealth of Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton, Chair of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Water Transportation (SCOWT). SCOWT addresses all policy, regulatory, safety, and enforcement issues impacting the nation’s coastal, inland, and Great Lakes waterways and the nation’s ability to move goods efficiently on the national freight transportation network.

"AASHTO commends the Senate for its recent passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)," said Connaughton. "As the House writes its version of WRDA, we hope that lawmakers will find this study to be informative and useful in understanding Federal government’s essential role in ensuring the long term vitality of America’s marine transportation system. We stand by ready to assist in any way because we need to get this legislation signed, sealed, and delivered for the American people."

Download the AASHTO report at http://water.transportation.org/Pages/water_reports.aspx.