Recent years have seen significant changes in the global freight and supply chain system. An expanded Panama Canal, significant population growth in the South and Southeast, and new infrastructure and system resiliency demands pose a challenge to our aging freight transportation system. It is crucial for researchers, policy makers and practitioners to work together and prioritize research to overcome these new challenges. Fortunately, the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) is working with stakeholders, including EDF, to advance critical research efforts that will help modernize the global transportation system.
Earlier this month, TRB reviewed ongoing research for marine and freight transportation. In doing so, TRB also established priorities for future studies, with an overarching goal to “promote innovation and progress in transportation.” EDF will partner with TRB to champion innovative research and facilitate a transition to cleaner and more efficient marine and freight transportation choices going forward.
Texas faces many pressing transportation issues of its own. Record traffic growth, rapid expansion at the Port of Houston, booming population growth across the state, and a flurry of oil and gas drilling activity all pose unique infrastructure and air quality challenges to the Lone Star State.
A key transportation challenge faced by Texas is congestion at its U.S.-Mexico border crossings. Emissions from idling trucks at crowded border crossings have brought air pollution concerns in border cities such as El Paso and Laredo. The Texas Department of Transportation is collaborating with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute to develop a tool to help streamline border crossings. The Border Crossing Information System provides drivers, carriers and other stakeholders with real-time and historical information about border crossing wait-times and delays. The data make it easy for truck drivers to understand congestion patterns, thereby reducing vehicle idling and harmful air emissions.
In addition to its numerous busy border crossings with Mexico, Texas is also home to many bustling marine ports such as the Port of Houston. Ports are home to numerous sources of air pollution. Idling ships, cargo-handling equipment, and large trucks all put out emissions that contribute to poor air quality. EDF’s recently published paper, Emissions Reduction Analysis of Voluntary Clean Truck Programs at U.S. Ports, looks at progress made by voluntary truck replacement programs to reduce air pollution. The paper also comments on best practices that have emerged from efforts in Virginia, South Carolina and Texas. These lessons will be extremely valuable as we move forward in the development of an environmental performance metrics system for U.S. ports. One of the key components of this system is a toolkit that will help marine ports and terminal operators improve terminal performance, as well as regional air quality.
In the coming weeks, transportation stakeholders will meet at the Transportation and Infrastructure Summit in Irving, Texas to address current transportation issues including the topics mentioned in this post. EDF will participate as a panelist. We look forward to engaging the transportation community to help improve transportation efficiency, reduce harmful emissions and drive innovation. We applaud TRB for facilitating and promoting new research that will drive Texas and the national freight industry into the future and reduce the environmental impact of our transportation infrastructure.