November 1, 2023
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Blue Highways: NYC DOT, EDC Seek Creative Solutions to Move More Freight Via Waterways Instead of Roadways
Newly released Request for Information and Expressions of Interest (RFEI) seeks input from private sector on how to reactive waterways for safer, greener freight deliveries
Utilizing waterways, cargo bikes, and low and zero emission vehicles for goods movement can reduce congestion, support safer, and more environmentally friendly deliveries.
New York — New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) President and CEO Andrew Kimball today announced that the agencies are seeking creative solutions to move more freight via waterways instead of roadways. Through the Blue Highways initiative, the City will activate the robust network of local waterways for the sustainable movement of goods. The agencies today jointly released a Request for Information and Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to solicit feedback from the private sector on industry challenges and opportunities, including ways to implement and support businesses to engage in waterfront freight operations, and spark new economic development opportunities. This initiative builds on the recommendations in PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done and the "New" New York Panel's Making New York Work for Everyone, which calls to expand the city's use of its waterways for freight.
"New York is a city of islands, but its waterways carry less than 10% of freight. Through this initiative we're aiming to increase the cleaner movement of goods across the city," said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. "The private sector is essential to achieving an impactful modal shift and we look forward to collaborating on actionable steps to reactivate our marine highway."
"Having recently set the all-time record for jobs in the history of New York City, our focus is trained on projects and policies that promote economic equity, mobility, and prosperity," said Maria Torres-Springer, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic and Workforce Development. "This work includes updating and modernizing our infrastructure to enable growth and the Blue Highways RFEI is one such example, another way that the Adams' Administration's is adopting climate-forward policies that simultaneously create the jobs and sectors of the future."
"Reactivating our waterways for the movement of goods can help reduce the City's reliance on large trucks, cutting down on congestion and emissions," said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. "With a city coastline stretching longer than Miami, Boston, Los Angeles and San Fransisco combined, there is an exciting opportunity to develop a regional freight network to move our goods more safely and efficiently. We look forward to working with our partners at the EDC and the private sector to better understand how to support businesses interested in marine freight."
"New York City is surrounded by waterways that are ripe for innovative possibilities to reduce dependency on trucks," said NYCEDC President & CEO Andrew Kimball. "The Blue Highways initiative is an exciting opportunity to activate our waterways and partner with the private sector on strategies to implement waterfront freight operations."
"Unlocking the potential of our waterways as a freight transportation solution is a game-changer for New York City," said "New" New York Executive Director B.J. Jones. "Through the Blue Highways initiative, the Administration will collaborate with the private sector to revolutionize the way goods are delivered, creating a safer, less congested, and more sustainable urban environment."
"By harnessing our waterways for freight transportation, we can foster enhanced efficiency, reduced congestion, and a greener city," said "New" New York Panel Co-Chair Dan Doctoroff. "The Blue Highways initiative presents a viable last-mile delivery strategy to overcome market and infrastructure barriers and better leverage New York City's global waterfront."
Through the Blue Highways initiative, the City is exploring ways to modernize existing marine infrastructure, expanding access to the waterfront, and helping to develop a sustainable model for last-mile deliveries involving marine freight vessels and low- and zero-emission vehicles like cargo bikes and electric vans.
This RFEI will help inform the City on the feasibility of launching a marine freight pilot program. The City welcomes and encourages responses from a wide range of freight operators and other interested stakeholders, including participation from City-certified MWBE vendors, to:
- Identify entities interested in facilitating, operating, or utilizing marine terminals or other waterfront properties for marine freight movement.
- Solicit feedback from freight operators on what existing barriers need to be addressed to successfully operate and utilize a marine highway network in New York City.
- Solicit feedback from freight operators and stakeholders on the necessary economic and regulatory factors, as well as reasonable infrastructure improvements, needed to optimize the movement of freight by water.
- Solicit feedback on sustainable practices to minimize environmental impacts and identify opportunities to support marine freight with sustainable last-mile delivery options (including, but not limited to, low-emission equipment and vessels, waste reduction, and mitigating noise and air pollution).
- Identify opportunities for multiple entities to jointly participate in a future marine highway pilot.
Based on the level of responses to this RFEI, the City may choose to make additional capital investments such as modernizing its marine terminals, expanding access to maritime shippers and receivers, and partnering with the private sector on marine highway activations. Recognizing this initiative is a catalyst for economic development, the City will foster workforce development by collaborating with local educational institutions to develop targeted training programs, ensuring that local communities are both benefiting from and part of the marine highway reactivation.
The City intends to seek additional federal funding opportunities to support these initiatives. In 2022, the City secured over $5M to improve marine freight service and bolster New York City's marine highway.
"Expanding local deliveries on the water is the natural next step in reimagining how we move goods in a dense urban environment. As we lead the busiest shipping port on the East Coast, we are already well-versed in the dependability of maritime cargo movement," said Bethann Rooney, port director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "We stand ready to work with the City to take full advantage of the efficiency, reliability, and environmental sustainability our waterways can offer to keep goods flowing."
"We desperately need to find creative ways to alleviate congestion on our roads," said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. "As my Comprehensive Plan for Brooklyn recommends, shifting freight transportation from road to water will move Brooklyn toward a more sustainable future while bringing more green industrial jobs to our borough. I am glad to see the New York City Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation advance the goal of moving freight to water through their Blue Highways initiative, and I look forward to continued collaboration."
"New York City is intersected by waterways that have a vast untapped potential for moving freight," said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. "With global warming posing such a dangerous threat to our way of life, we must take advantage of our proximity to the water to get as many greenhouse gas-emitting trucks off our roads as possible. And fewer trucks on the road means fewer traffic jams on our city's busy highways."
"Heavy, oversize trucks deliver more than 2 million packages to New Yorkers every single day -- and this e-commerce traffic is crumbling our roads into the ground," said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. "That's why I introduced a bill to decrease e-commerce traffic on our streets, and why it's clear to me that utilizing our robust network of local waterways for freight delivery is just common sense. I applaud the DOT for taking initiative here, and I look forward to seeing the decreased congestion and traffic on our roadways as a result of this proposal."
"New York is a city of rivers, bays, creeks and inlets, with a rich history of diverse economic uses. As online commerce continues to expand, moving goods by water can reduce the number of polluting, dangerous trucks in our dense urban neighborhoods, and help reactivate shorelines with sustainable development," said State Assembly Member Emily Gallagher. "I am thrilled by today's announcement that the New York City Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation are advancing this concept whose time has come."
"With the climate crises before us, it's important to see DOT and EDC taking steps to move to more sustainable freight moving using our waterways instead of the roadways. I'm hopeful that the City's request for creative solutions to its freight distribution will receive robust and innovative ideas. In this era of rapidly advancing climate change, we need smart and environmentally-just transportation infrastructure," said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.
"My district is a waterfront community, but we are also at the center of three major truckways. Every day hundreds of freight trucks drive through our neighborhoods, passing by our schools and homes. This is in direct correlation to the South Bronx having some of the highest asthma rates in the nation," said City Council Member Amanda Farías. "We have to get large polluters like freight trucks out of our neighborhoods - and where better to look than our beautiful, yet under-utilized waterways. Efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and environmental justice have to be our top priorities. The recently announced Blue Highways initiative meets all three and is exactly the kind of initiative I want to continue seeing from our City. Thank you to the agencies involved for your leadership in getting this started."
"This new initiative to reroute our freight to the waterways is a transformative step towards a greener, more resilient future for our industrial areas, and all of New York City," said City Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. "By unlocking the potential of our waterways for sustainable freight movement, this initiative both supports my district’s needs to revitalize and protect our manufacturing district, while also addressing decades of environmental injustice."
"Diversifying freight movement and improving our region's economic competitiveness through the Blue Highway program will provide resiliency to the transportation system. The Blue Highway program will create and sustain jobs contributing to the nation's strategic sealift command," said Stephen Lyman, Executive Director for the Maritime Association of the Port of NY/NJ. "The reduction of landside traffic congestion will add new freight and passenger transportation capacity, a reduction on greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce wear-and-tear on roads and bridges."
"The Administration is smart to seek innovative strategies for moving goods in our highly congested city," said Jessica Walker, President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. "It is also smart to invite the private sector to be a partner in bettering New York, which is a role that the business community is eager and willing to do."
"New York City is surrounded by water, built because of the water, and has thrived because of the water! Throughout our history, we have depended on the water to move people, goods, and connect us to the world. We must now look back to the water to help solve some of our most urgent challenges to reduce truck traffic and congestion, emissions reduction, and climate change mitigation," said Michael Stamatis, President and CEO, Red Hook Terminals. "Maintaining and modernizing our existing port infrastructure and building new port infrastructure for the movement of goods into and around the city on our blue highways will be imperative. We fully support and applaud the NYCDOT and NYCEDC's efforts to develop an environmentally friendly and sustainable freight mobility system using our greatest natural resource."
"With freight tonnage expected to increase 68% over the next 20 years, collaboration amongst all modes of transportation is critical to improving the efficiency of freight movement within New York City. Utilizing the waterways to provide another option for freight transportation makes sense," said Kendra Hems, President of the Trucking Association of New York. "TANY looks forward to continuing to work with our partners at the Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation on this important project."
"The Regional Plan Association (RPA) applauds New York City Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation for this important step towards sustainable freight movement. As our region’s dependence on efficient freight activity has increased dramatically over the past few years, continued financial investments and creative solutions are needed to support the City’s economic growth and reduction in reliance on roadways for moving goods throughout the metropolitan area," said –Tiffany-Ann Taylor, Vice President for Transportation at the Regional Plan Association. "We look forward to learning more about potential partnerships, industry challenges, and opportunities from private sector responses to the RFEI. RPA will continue to be a strong advocate for sustainable freight mobility in the region and looks forward to continued collaboration with the City as a critical agent in the regional transportation system."
"New York City's historic growth as an international center of growth and commerce was built on our unique topography and ability to harness the opportunities our waterways and ports offer," said Felicia Park-Rogers, Director of Regional Infrastructure Projects at Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "As our city and region look for ways to decarbonize in the face of unprecedented climate change; reduce air pollution and unacceptable levels of congestion; and reconnect communities that were carved up and destroyed by highways, now more than ever is the time to reactivate our waterways to move goods and freight. This can and must be done sustainably, using the knowledge and progress we have gained to maintain clean waters and protect their inhabitants. The Blue Highways program provides an opportunity to do this and more."
"Freight delivery is a major economic engine, but it's one that clogs our roads with too many vehicles and warms our planet with greenhouse gas emissions. Shifting freight transportation from roadways to waterways will at once ease congestion while reducing toxic air pollution, especially for environmental justice communities that have been negatively impacted the most by last mile facilities," said Alia Soomro, Deputy Director of NYC Policy for the New York League of Conservation Voters. "NYLCV applauds DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and EDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball for thinking outside the box when it comes to fighting climate change and for their commitment to creating a healthier, more sustainable New York City."
"We are thrilled to see the DOT and EDC joining forces to explore innovative ways to move freight via waterways in NYC. SBIDC has long advocated for a sustainable and equitable approach to economic development along our industrial waterfront. As our communities face an increase in last-mile warehouse development, SBIDC is acutely aware of the concerns around heightened truck traffic and pollution," said Jesse Solomon, the Executive Director of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. "The Blue Highways initiative represents a crucial step towards addressing these concerns and fostering more energy-efficient freight deliveries. By tapping into our local waterways and reviving NYC's heritage of shipping throughout the harbor, we can significantly reduce congestion, pollution and strengthen Brooklyn's working waterfront."
"Net Zero Logistics is thrilled to participate in this RFEI and work closely with the NYC DOT on these creative solutions to reduce carbon, traffic, and congestion," said Mark Chiusano, CEO of Net Zero Logistics. "Along with the Micromobilty RFEI, NYC DOT is leading the trend in the US not only by coming up with unique initiatives, but also including local businesses in the process. It is a true partnership, and NZL is proud to be included."
"The Cobble Hill Association (CHA) supports this step towards reducing truck traffic on our congested highways and surface streets. The CHA has long advocated for advancing new modes of freight movement that prioritizes the health, safety, and environmental benefits we want for our community, without cost to other communities," said Amy Breedlove, President of the Cobble Hill Association. "We are grateful to DOT and EDC for meaningfully exploring this alternative and we look forward to seeing the proposed solutions."
"With the tremendous increase in population in Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant, getting through the neighborhood literally may take a half an hour or more due to congestion. It results in children being late to school, employees arriving late to their workplaces, elderly missing medical appointments etc. The numerous truck routes in our area are major contributors to the terrible congestion, and they make our streets unsafe for pedestrians and motorists, which has resulted in fatalities and serious injuries," said Rabbi David Niederman, President of the UJO of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. "I commend Mayor Adams, DOT Commissioner Rodriguez and EDC President Kimball, for working on innovative ideas, such as the Blue Highways Initiative, to bring relief to our streets and improve the traffic flow in the neighborhood."