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Intermodal Proponent Makes His Case in Washington

Gil Carmichael, leader of the Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) at the University of Denver and a former federal railroad administrator, told a group of industry experts at the National Press Club recently that ignorance of intermodal freight transportation is almost universal in the United States.

In a speech entitled "The New Science of Transportation," Carmichael warned that the nation's governmental agencies have not kept pace with the evolution of intermodal transportation and that they have not been able to deal effectively with the current energy crisis nor have they addressed the increasing need for intermodal education to meet the transportation demands of the 21st century.

"Traditionally government agencies have concentrated on single modes of transportation," said Carmichael. "But over the past quarter-century, intermodalism has become the global standard for moving freight. Therefore, if we are to develop a new transportation infrastructure, it will require placing a priority on the education of an entire new generation of transportation leaders to the horizontal efficiencies of this ‘new science of transportation.'"

Carmichael said this ignorance about freight transportation leads to bad decision-making, missed opportunities and economic problems. He suggested that the executive functions of government transportation agencies be separated into two categories—freight and passenger transportation. Policy making, planning, program development and the awarding of grant monies would be based upon customers, not individual modes.

"Doing so would make a powerful statement that the U.S. does, in fact, understand that the world has changed when it comes to transportation infrastructures," he said. "Congress still operates as if this were the 1950s. Members talk about intermodalism but still vote for traditional—and outdated—highway projects that fail to address our energy needs or our national transportation system that is stretched beyond capacity."

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