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Apr 12 -- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT or Department) seeks information from the public, and in particular multimodal freight system users, transportation providers, metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, ports, airports, railroads, freight forwarders, brokers, other supply chain logisticians, scholars, and States on the best approach to identify critical freight facilities and corridors that will make up a National Multimodal Freight Network (NMFN) that is vital to achieving the national multimodal freight policy goals of the United States. DOT is issuing this Request for Information (RFI) to solicit input on how to prioritize the statutory goals of, and the statutory factors for designating, the NMFN, as well as measurable thresholds, criteria, and data sources for designating the NMFN.

Informed by comments received in response to this RFI, DOT will draft a proposed network map to be published for public comment in the Late Spring of 2024 and provide an opportunity for States to provide input to submit additions to the network. After the final, subsequent comment period, DOT will review and approve additional designations for the NMFN by States and designate the final NMFN by December of 2024.

Comments must be received on or before June 11, 2024 to receive consideration by DOT with respect to the draft designation of the NMFN.

Section 70103 of title 49, United States Code, which was established in section 8001 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, Public Law 114-94 (Dec. 4, 2015) and amended by section 21103 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Public Law 117-58 (Nov. 15, 2021), directs the Assistant Secretary for Multimodal Freight to establish a NMFN that will be used to:

(1) assist States in strategically directing resources toward improved system performance for the efficient movement of freight on the NMFN;
(2) inform freight transportation planning;
(3) assist in the prioritization of Federal investment; and
(4) assess and support Federal investments to achieve the national multimodal freight policy goals described in 49 U.S.C. 70101(b), and the national highway freight program goals described in 23 U.S.C. 167.

DOT is directed to designate the NMFN after soliciting input from stakeholders through a public process and providing notice and comment on a draft system, with the goal of using measurable data as part of assessment of the significance of freight movement, to improve network and intermodal connectivity. DOT is requesting input from a broad cross section of stakeholders, but Section 70103 also provides a process for States to propose specific additions to the NMFN, referred to as “State Input”. States must consider nominations from freight stakeholders within their State, and ensure proposed additions are consistent with their State transportation improvement program or state freight plan. DOT anticipates requesting those additions this summer, at the same time as DOT requests input on the Draft Network. . . .

The Department is requesting comments on several questions that are posed below. DOT will use this input to inform a draft NMFN, which DOT anticipates publishing in Late Spring 2024. Following publication of the draft network, DOT will establish a process to receive additional designations from the States via the “State Input” process outlined in statute49 U.S.C. 70103(b)(4). DOT expects to publish the final NMFN by the end of the calendar year. In order to meet that timeline, States should anticipate a 90-day window to provide their additional designations and associated State Input certifications. . . .

Section 70103(b)(2) of Title 49, United States Code, directs DOT to consider twelve distinct factors in designating the route miles and facilities on the NMFN:

1. Origins and destinations of freight movement within, to, and from the United States;
2. Volume, value, tonnage, and the strategic importance of freight;
3. Access to border crossings, airports, seaports, and pipelines;
4. Economic factors, including balance of trade;
5. Access to major areas for manufacturing, agriculture, or natural resources;
6. Access to energy exploration, development, installation, and production areas;
7. Intermodal links and intersections that promote connectivity;
8. Freight choke points and other impediments contributing to significant measurable congestion, delay in freight movement, or inefficient modal connections;
9. Impacts on all freight transportation modes and modes that share significant freight infrastructure;
10. Facilities and transportation corridors identified by a multi-State coalition, a State, a State freight advisory committee, or an MPO, using national or local data, as having critical freight importance to the region;
11. Major distribution centers, inland intermodal facilities, and first- and last-mile facilities; 
12. The significance of goods movement, including consideration of global and domestic supply chains.

In considering the above factors, DOT is also directed to use, to the extent practicable, measurable data.

DOT seeks comments on three primary areas for designating the NMFN. The first area seeks feedback from stakeholders on the NMFN goals. The second area asks stakeholders to prioritize the 12 factors listed above. The third area seeks comment on the potential thresholds, criteria, and data sources that correspond to one or more of the twelve factors, including a discussion of why the thresholds, criteria and data sources should be considered for designating the Final NMFN. . . .

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-07810

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