June 19, 2002
MOVING TRAILERS BY BARGE IN LONG ISLAND SOUND
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked for an update on the proposals to shift part of the truck traffic on Interstate 95 to barges in Long Island Sound.
FEEDER BARGE SERVICE IN LONG ISLAND SOUND
PA 01-05 established the Transportation Strategy Board and requires it to propose a comprehensive transportation strategy for legislative approval. It also requires the board to undertake 22 specific projects. One of these is a demonstration project to provide feeder barge service in Long Island Sound connecting the port facilities of New York and New Jersey and Bridgeport and New Haven harbors. Depending on how a barge is loaded, it can carry the same number of containers as 100 to 380 trucks. The rationale for a feeder barge service is that shifting the containers currently carried by trucks to barges could abate traffic congestion in the southwestern corridor, improve air quality, and promote economic development. The act designated $50 million from the surplus that existed at the time for the projects, of which $7 million was designated for the feeder barge project.
At the board's request, the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency and the South Central Regional Council of Governments have developed proposals for the demonstration project. A summary of the Bridgeport proposal is available on the Office of Policy and Management's Website, http://www.opm.state.ct.us/igp/TSB/Brdgpt_Port.htm. A copy of the New Haven proposal is available from this office. Both proposals require a subsidy of approximately $100 per container from the state in their early years for operational costs. When the Department of Transportation (DOT) previously studied the possibility of establishing a feeder barge service in 2001, it determined that it would be infeasible due to the subsidy that would be required.
The board originally hoped to determine in March 2002 whether to proceed with one or both of the proposals and to initiate service in September 2002. Earlier this year the board sought DOT's recommendation on this issue. DOT has not provided its recommendation to date, and it is unclear when it will do so. DOT's Robert Hammersley, who staffs the board, notes that funding for the project has not been allocated. As a result, even when the board makes its decision, the project cannot move forward until the FY 2002-2004 budget is adopted. In his budget proposal, Governor Rowland recommended that the project be funded by bonds, rather than appropriations.
In addition to the board's initiative, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is developing a plan to ship cargo that lands at its facilities to smaller regional centers known as the Port Inland Distribution Network (PIDN). The Port Authority is working with various state and regional entities, including the board and DOT, in developing the plan. Among the ports that the Port Authority is contemplating including in this network are Bridgeport and New Haven. The PIDN could also include more distant ports such as Daysville, Rhode Island and Albany, New York. Part of the Port Authority's motivation for developing the PIDN is that capacity at its existing facilities is constrained and the cost of creating new terminal space at these facilities would be $2-3 million per acre. Developing the PIDN could also reduce the “dwell time” at the Port Authority's facilities. The dwell time is the period from when a container is taken off a ship until it leaves the terminal yard. For containers shipped by truck (the bulk of the Port Authority's traffic), the typical dwell time is six to eight days, which is substantially longer than the dwell time for containers moved by barge or rail. The constraints at the Port Authority facilities, including its dwell time, have led a substantial amount of containerized shipping to choose other ports along the eastern seaboard.
The Port Authority has found that 40% of the containers going through its facilities stay within a 75-mile radius. It estimates that implementing the PIDN could reduce the traffic associated with such trips from 112 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to 44 million VMT. The Bridgeport proposal to the board estimates that the use of barges to transport goods could reduce traffic on Interstate 95 by about 385 trucks per week.