Transportation Policy

The lack of an integrated national transportation policy plan is undermining the nation's attempts at reducing vehicle generated air pollution, increasing an unsustainable long term dependence upon fossil fuels, and mitigating growing traffic congestion.   As one of the major components of a coordinated energy independence and environmental action plan, the lack of an integrated and coherent long-term national transportation policy precludes any meaningful progress toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and compliance with treaty emission reduction protocols (also please read the separate Energy and Environment Issue paper).  European nations with integrated transportation and energy conservation plans are now reaping the social, environmental, and economic benefits of their national foresight.  Commercial trucks are banned from using the German highway system on Sundays.  Most major Western European cities are now connected by high speed passenger rail transport service. New rail/truck carriage tunnels now under construction through the Alps will eliminate heavy truck traffic and its resulting pollution of the pristine Alpine environment, not to mention attendant reductions in diesel fuel consumption.

The projected rapid growth increases now being forecast for heavy truck transport in the United States will seriously hamper future progress toward energy conservation and air pollution abatement.  Heavy truck operations are the major cause of rapid highway deterioration with the costs of periodic highway reconstruction unfairly being passed on to individual non-commercial highway users driving cars, SUV's and light trucks.  It has been estimated that passage of one heavy truck causes as much highway wear as the passage of 7,000 cars, but the commercial truck operators are not paying 7,000 times the fuel and road use taxes that are assessed upon car owners.   The unwise growth in long-range truck transport in the United States should be restricted by major increases in commercial heavy truck road user fees with Federal tax incentives to accelerate shifting their cargoes to high speed rail transport.  However, the consolidation of the railroads into only a few huge regional combines has reduced competition for a choice of rail transport providers in most areas of the country.  Deregulation of the railroads combined with the emergence of these huge rail monopolies is likely to frustrate any national policy toward shifting long-haul cargoes from road to rail transport unless monopolistic price gouging and rail service deficiencies can be constrained by new interstate commerce regulation legislation.

The continuing abandonment of rail lines and rights of way should be reconsidered from a combined national defense and economic security perspective.  Only one transcontinental rail line is currently double tracked for most of its length: shifting most long haul truck cargoes to rail transport will necessitate Federal intervention to insure adequate rail transport network coverage and capacity are maintained for economic growth, energy conservation, and national defense considerations.  Similarly, Federal tax and other incentives to implement high speed rail passenger service between major cities in the Eastern and Central time zones and within California should become a national priority.  Air travelers on short haul airline routes spend now twice as much or even more time getting to and from airports and undergoing check-in and airport security clearance as they do in the air.  The vulnerability of aviation to adverse weather conditions and terrorist incidents will never be eliminated.  Air travel will always remain vulnerable to major disruptions from severe weather events.  There is also the currently ignored problem of increased consumption of oil-based aviation fuels with their resulting pollution of the upper atmosphere that sooner or later must be considered if carbon-based emissions are to be reduced.  The transition to a totally renewable energy production, transportation, and building heating and cooling economy after the year 2050 must become a major national goal (please also read the Energy and Environment issue paper).

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