Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

The Mighty Mississippi: Mother Nature's "Green" NAFTA Highway

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

The Mighty Mississippi: Mother Nature's "Green" NAFTA Highway

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Some are calling it "a road to ruin." Transportation systems in the United States are experiencing growing pains. Many participants are greatly concerned over rising issues related to safety, congestion, and inadequate system capacity across several of the five transportation modes. Professionals in the industry agree that the U.S. is in need of a far-reaching National Transportation Plan to facilitate both the repair and reinvention of its infrastructure (Bowman, 2007).

In our work, we investigate some of the energy and environmental issues surrounding the proposed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Superhighway. In contrast, we focus on the Mississippi River as a more energy efficient and environmentally conscious means of relieving infrastructure capacity problems. In addition, we explore The Jones Act, a major obstacle to commerce in the water transportation industry.

INTRODUCTION

The issue of transportation systems in the United States is one that increases in complexity as the opportunities for trade expand and supply chain activities evolve internationally. Within the basic modes of transportation we explore an increased focus on water transportation options. In particular, we investigate the multitude of opportunities that the Mississippi River offers to relieve rail and highway infrastructure capacity problems which encompass energy and environmental issues. In addition, careful consideration must be given to the impact of the Jones Act restricting maritime commerce in the United States.

Our work begins with a review of the five modes of transportation. From there we discuss how the U.S. is used as a land bridge, and how port berth congestion is delaying freight delivery. We then present major energy and environmental concerns associated with rail and highway congestion, and how the planned NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act) Superhighway stands to further constrain rail and highway infrastructure. Next, we discuss how canal expansion in Panama stands ready to alleviate port congestion by moving cargo more towards the center of the U.S. for dispersion. Such dispersion is more than likely going to take place in the nation's heartland along the Mississippi River. Finally, we explore the Jones Act and its restrictions for water carriers, and discuss further research opportunities. Hopefully, this study will increase the awareness of the viability of water carriers along the U.S.'s major river system.

MODES OF TRANSPORTATION

Transportation infrastructure consists of rights-of-way, vehicles, and carriers that operate within the five basic modes of transportation. Those five basic modes are rail, highway, water, pipeline, and air. Data from the American Transportation Association indicates that the highway share of the domestic freight market far exceeds that of all other modes combined (Bowersox, et al, 2010). However, while all modes are essential to providing a sound national transportation infrastructure, it is clear that U. S. commerce depends heavily on motor carriers. For our work, we concentrate on rail, highway and water modes since those are effected most by NAFTA. A brief discussion of each follows.

Railroads once ranked first among all modes in terms of the number of miles in service. That ranking began to decline after World War ? as there were significant shifts around the country in the development of roads and highways to support the growth of motor carriers. However, the capability to efficiently transport large tonnage over long distances is the main reason railroads continue to handle significant city-to-city freight. Rail operations have high fixed costs because of expensive equipment, rights-of-way, tracks, switching yards, and terminals. In contrast, rail enjoys fairly low variable operating costs (Bowersox, et al., 2010).

In comparison to rail, motor carriers have relatively small fixed investment in terminal facilities and operate on publicly financed and maintained roads. …

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