By Mark Hallum
The city Economic Development Corporation and the Port Authority are working to decrease congestion on the streets by creating an advisory council which will implement a regional barge network to offer alternatives from transporting goods through the northeast.
The North Atlantic Highway Alliance will conduct research and analysis to support building financially viable options for freight movement along waterways, instead by tractor-trailer or by freight train.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) has been advocating for better utilization of the waterways surrounding the city to boost transportation of goods and people to and from transit deserts, such as his northeast Queens district, which stretches from East Flushing to Little Neck and has no subway service.
“As our city continues facing serious congestion concerns, a switch to transporting freight by maritime and rail will reduce traffic congestion and create jobs for the world’s greatest city,” said Vallone, who serves as the chairman of the Committee on Economic Development. “Investments in barging and the creation of a northeast barge council will ensure that the shift to barging from trucking is an effective and inclusive process that benefits all New Yorkers.”
As freight volumes are expected to increase by 70 percent by 2025, according to the EDC, the North Atlantic Highway Alliance is expected to assist the agency’s $100 million Freight NYC plan to reduce the city’s dependency on trucking.
The EDC received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, the agency said, and an equal amount is expected to be contributed by the city to create the advisory council.
“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,” EDC CEO James Patchett said. “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.”
The initiative has the backing of League of Conservation Voters as well as U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), whose coastal district overlaps into southwest Queens, which sees the affects from freight train traffic through Glendale and Ridgewood.
“This grant and the creation of this council will help expand movement of freight by water, in turn reducing truck traffic, congestion, wear and tear on infrastructure and pollution. Bringing together industry, local government and other stakeholders will produce tangible solutions that benefit our local and regional economies and our environment,” Velázquez said.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall