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New York alliance pushing for regional barge network

Proponents say increased use of waterways would offset trucks and relieve congested roadways.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) have announced the creation of the North Atlantic Marine Highway Alliance, which will seek to foster the use of barge services to offset the use of trucks and supplement rail cargo to and from the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The alliance will serve in an advisory capacity on research, analysis and relationship building to support the realization of a financially viable, regional barge network, according to an announcement from the port authority. The alliance will be composed of public agencies, port authorities, marine terminal operators and service providers and will provide a forum for stakeholders to work collaboratively to develop and expand regional barge services among two or more North Atlantic ports, ranging from Maryland to Maine.

Development of the North Atlantic Marine Highway Alliance complements Freight NYC, a $100 million plan released by NYCEDC earlier this year. The plan aims to reduce dependency on trucking for distribution and increase use of rail freight and marine barging to move freight in and around the New York City. Freight volumes are forecast to increase nearly 70 percent by 2025, according to the port authority.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration will be supporting efforts to create a regional barge network through its marine highway grant program. In August, NYCEDC was awarded approximately $300,000 through a federal grant. The grant, which will be matched by the City of New York and potentially by other advisory group members, will be used to research potential markets and operational elements of the barge system, the port authority said.

“Our goal is to balance the need to efficiently and effectively move freight throughout the region and beyond, while continuing to be good environmental stewards to the communities that surround our port facilities,” said Rick Cotton, port authority executive director. “This new alliance will help us achieve that goal by seeking to foster more environmentally friendly barge services to transport cargo to and from the port, which will supplement other major initiatives we have in place that address emissions reductions and air quality for those who live and work in the port community.”

NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett said, “Reducing the amount of cargo coming in and out of the New York City metro area by truck is key to improving air quality and decreasing congestion. NYCEDC’s Freight NYC plan underscores the potential that our waterways have to catalyze the city’s freight distribution network. In partnership with other members of the North Atlantic Marine Highway Alliance, we can develop a sustainable regional barge network that will support a 21st century economy.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said, “I have long stated that the New York region needs a better way to move goods, plain and simple. We must end our over-reliance on trucks that clog and destroy our roads, make the cost of doing business and consumer goods more expensive, harms our environment, raises childhood asthma rates and creates safety and national security vulnerabilities.”

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