The Marine Highway effort took a big step forward,maybe three years ago, when former MARAD Administrator Sean Connaughton traveled to Little Rock for the annual meeting of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. MPOs are the regional transportation planning entities responsible for developing Transportation Improvement Plans and selecting projects for Federal funding. They consist of local government and transportation agencies including State DOTs. The interest that an MPO shows in freight transportation depends on how well ports and other freight stakeholders engage their local MPO.
Connaughton, a former county official in Virginia, understood the role of MPOs and the Federal resources they have to support projects. He knew also that most MPOs understood little or nothing about short sea shipping or most any form of marine transportation. If transportation planners were to give consideration to coastal or inland shipping in addressing transportation needs they would first have to know it exists…and is relevant.
When MARAD later issued for comment the interim final rule for the America’s Marine Highway (AMH) program the notice effectively alerted transportation agencies that a new program was to begin. Input was invited for the naming of marine highway corridors. The response has brought to light many projects and a level of interest that previously had not been known. (MARAD is expected to issue final rules for the program later this year and formally solicit project proposals early next year.) Enter NYMTC.
An effort is underway by planners in the New York Metro region to gauge interest in the budding marine highway program. NYMTC, the New York City and Long Island MPO, has scheduled a meeting for September 29th. (See the “downloadable files” on the left menu of NYMTC site and find “America’s Marine Highways” on drop-down list.) All are welcome to participate and one can view the meeting online.
According to Howie Mann of NYMTC the agency has reached out to neighboring MPOs–an important step because marine highway corridors inevitably extend beyond the limits of one or more MPOs. Like the 64 Express project on the James River, undertaken by Barbara Nelson of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission since that Little Rock meeting, these steps by NYMTC will add to public and institutional understanding and should prove useful.
Note: If you are curious to know more about reginoal transportation planning and the MPO role, here is a worthwhile read about The History of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Pbea