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While "marine highways" have potential as an alternative to road and rail transport, a recent Congressional Research Service report found obstacles to moving more freight by water.
"Marine highways may be commercially viable in certain circumstances. In many instances, however, they have succeeded in capturing only a negligible share of container shipments along a given route," said the report, Can Marine Highways Deliver? "There are questions, therefore, whether marine highways will divert enough trucks to provide public benefits commensurate with their costs."
It pointed to a container-on-barge service that operated between the Port of New York and New Jersey and Albany in 2003-2006, which it said received $5.3m of federal funding that "enabled the transportation of 8,486 containers over the service's three-year life. This equates to a federal outlay of $625 per container, which is in the neighborhood of what a shipper would pay for trucking a container between New York and Albany. Thus, the federally supported project roughly doubled the nation's freight bill for these container movements.
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