The Awakening of A Sleeping Giant

Two recent announcements herald the beginning of an integrated freight transport system in the NY Region


It’s only a beginning but an important beginning. New York City is finally making an investment into our ancient transport infrastructure with the announcement of Freight NYC. An investment that is modest compared with our total requirements, but a good start.

Earlier this month, The Port Authority had also advanced a plan to remedy the problem with a project that will connect Port Newark with other facilities in Brooklyn and Manhattan via barge and rail. And now, New York City’s mayor’s office is launching a $100 million plan to overhaul the city’s aging distribution system. The details of this plan were released by the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCED).

The cities transport difficulties are primarily caused by a scattered network of facilities with little or no connection. Think of Port Newark across NY bay with poor connection to points in the city. Think of Red Hook freight yard with similar problems, add our airports that are limited to ground transport through crowded highways to deliver their freight. And those examples are only a small sample.

The City depends on crucial but aging marine, rail and highway infrastructure and relies upon trucks to move nearly 90% of freight. As the City’s population continues to grow and consumers increasingly demand near-instant deliveries, local freight volumes will grow an estimated 68% by 2045, further choking traffic and impeding commerce. This challenge is particularly acute in the “last mile” of distribution, in which trucks bring goods from port facilities and central warehouses, often located in neighboring states like New Jersey, to consumers over city streets and arteries.

The project’s goals include modernizing the aging infrastructure and connecting multi-modal transport points in the region. Other byproduct benefits are the reduction of over-the-road delivery, thereby reducing traffic (thus improving air quality) as well as the creation of 5,000 jobs.

In a blog prepared by Barry Hochfelder on July 18th for Supply Chain Dive, the author mentions that the American Society of Civil Engineers 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gives nationwide condition a grade of D+. Other disturbing notes from the study estimate it would require $3.7 trillion by 2025 to raise the grade to a B, a $2 trillion increase over current spending. You could probably drop the grade a point or two for New York City because our freight system is older and more difficult to modernize especially when you consider the lack of available land, and buildable access routes within the five boroughs.
The time may be right for these efforts because if there is one thing that all American’s agree with it is the fixing and expansion of our nations’ infrastructure.

There are three primary issues addressed in the Freight NYC project; investment in multi-modal operations, new freight distribution hubs, and the reduction of emissions from over the road vehicles.

Let’s look at a brief description of each of the goals one at a time.

Multi Modal Operations

New York City will work with the Port Authority to improve marine terminals and barge operations. Today, almost half of vessels experience delays across our inland waterways according to the Society of Civil Engineers Report. This also includes expanding rail lines and freight facilities, especially solving the problem of “track congestion” by building new right of ways.

Freight Distribution Hubs

The City will develop new distribution, warehousing and transload facilities to meet increasing demand. This will help ensure the City will sustain the demands of its growing population, while creating secondary pathways to move goods and prevent other major disruptions. For example, RFPs will be released to build a 500,000-square-foot facility at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and a 4-acre site near JFK Airport to develop an air cargo and distribution facility.

Last Mile Delivery

The City will encourage the deployment of cutting-edge and emission-free trucks on city streets for last mile delivery, which will help advance the Mayor’s goal of reducing 80% of gas emissions by 2050. Highlights of these efforts include: ◦Supporting the expansion of the NYCDOTs Hunts Point Clean Trucks Program to other truck hubs and Industrial Business Zones. The program offers a rebate to applicants that replace, retrofit, or retire older, heavy-polluting diesel trucks

There has been a positive reaction to Freight NYC from a wide spectrum of constituents from the CEO’s of major transport companies, leaders of construction and other trade unions, city political entities and private association and community leaders. All agree this is a necessary step both for our economic health, and the general health and welfare of city residents and visitors.

Regarding Air Cargo, which is of special interest to Metropolitan Airport News readers comes a statement from Brian C. Wills, President of Sobel Network Shipping Company. “JFK air cargo is a key economic driver for NYC. Innovation, technology, smart deployment of natural resources and vison will ensure JFK Airport is the airport of choice for the northeastern USA. Our core business, freight forwarding and Customs clearance, is dependent on the efficient movement of cargo and is key to our growth and competitiveness. Looking forward to the details.”

Though they don’t get much attention, freight distribution systems are the unsung heroes of infrastructure. People travel through airports and ride on subways, but don’t see how their green beans and peanut butter make it to the local grocery store. Similarly, many don’t know how the construction materials that build our homes get into our city, or how Amazon packages reach their front door.
Enough of these news stories about how Midwest airports are building infrastructure to drive their cargo growth; let’s get behind the effort to make New York City great again.

Article Sources:
New York City Government website
Supply Chain Dive
NYC Economic Development
Port Newark Project

Joseph Alba
Mr. Alba was previously Editor of the Airport Press for 12 years covering both local as well as global aviation news. Prior to this, Mr. Alba had Executive positions in Systems Engineering and Marketing with IBM World Trade, and had foreign assignments in the Far East and Latin America earning three Outstanding Achievement Awards. Mr. Alba also directed a new function dealing with Alternate Fuels for Public Service Electric & Gas company in New Jersey and founded a Natural Gas Vehicle Consortium consisting of car company executives and fleet owners, and NGV suppliers in New Jersey. Mr. Alba was a founding partner of ATA, an IT Consulting company which is still active in Central and South America. After leaving the armed forces, Mr. Alba’s initial employee was the U.S. Defense Department as an analyst.


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