A Visit to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Zabeth Teelucksingh, GPA Executive Director -- I was privileged to be present at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Goods Movement Task Force meeting on January 16th. 2013. It was a great gathering of the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington region’s freight and trade stakeholders, who meet four times a year to assess current opportunities and challenges and to share information.

This quarter, the meeting was co-sponsored by the World Trade Association of Philadelphia, which was represented by Dominic O’Brien and Harvey Weiner. The 81 year-old association promotes the region’s goods and shipping activity and actively supports charities, such as the Seamen’s Church Institute and Autism Speaks. Its members come from shipping, transport, freight forwarders, customs and warehousing.

The meeting’s first presentation was of a web-based freight map designed to improve data sharing and awareness of local freight facilities. This multi-faceted map (with 7 categories and 20 layers) will be available on the DVRPC website and will show how freight is moved in the region in the greatest detail. I learned that the region presently has 230 acres of rail yards, 672 miles of limited access highways, and 15+ ports. An important aspect of this transformational tool is a commitment to keep the data as up-to-date as possible and to fill in gaps as needed.

Next, we heard from DVRPC’s Brett Fusco about transportation funding in the region. Sadly, a shortfall is identified. In addition, a comparison with the rest of the world shows that in terms of GDP, Europe spends 5% more than the U.S. on transport infrastructure, India 8%, and China 9%, obviously affecting the U.S.’ competitiveness going forward. The DVRPC has designed a program called Choices and Voices at www.dvrpc.org/choicesandvoices/, where it is possible for individuals to share their views on priority plans in the region. The website is very user-friendly and of great value to any resident of the region.

The New Jersey rail freight plan was presented by Miki Krakauer. The presentation began by pointing out that the railroads provide the state with greener and more cost-effective modes of transport. New Jersey DOT is currently engaged in a process of evaluating the levels of service in the state and how to maintain and make necessary changes.

Finally, we were enlightened by Jack Galloway, Chairman of Canopy Prospecting about the Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota and the transport of light, sweet crude oil to the Philadelphia area refineries. 5,000 jobs will be saved in the region, and these jobs generate another 3 jobs per saved job in dependent or related activities. A facility in Eddystone, PA is being revamped to operate a more efficient and larger rail track and tanks that are more streamlined. The speaker projected that 50 years from now, most vehicular oil in this country would be generated in the US, hence why this project is significant to the region.

The meeting, chaired by DVRPC Executive Director Barry Seymour and PennDOT Deputy Secretary Jim Ritzman, was an enlightening and impressive gathering which allowed for information sharing at the highest and most efficient level. The diversity of the subjects presented alone highlights the breadth of activity in the region. The next meeting will occur on Tuesday, April 16th at 10AM, and all members of the local freight, economic development, and international community are invited to attend.