NYC closer to 'Blue Highway' initiative that shifts freight transportation to waterways

The plan, introduced in 2019, gained urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic as e-commerce surged.

Edric Robinson

Mar 6, 2024, 11:55 PM

Updated 47 days ago


In an effort to revolutionize freight transportation, New York City officials are preparing to roll out the "Blue Highway" initiative, which aims to shift freight transportation from roads to waterways through the activation of six waterfront landings across the five boroughs. This includes one in the Bronx, two in Brooklyn and three in Manhattan.
"We’re envisioning a different use of our waterways," said Jennifer Sun, executive vice president of the Planning Division at the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
The plan, introduced in 2019, gained urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic as e-commerce surged. Sun emphasizes that the exponential growth in e-commerce, projected to increase by over 60% in the next 20 years, is unsustainable for the city's already congested streets.
"Current roadways and streets are already congested," Sun explained. "They experience a lot of wear and tear, and there's increasingly more conflicts with pedestrians. We also need to reduce emissions because of the climate imperative."
“About 90% of goods move in and out the city by trucks,” said Kevin Garcia, senior transportation planner at the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance.
While applauding the waterway plan, Garcia raises concerns about potential environmental impacts. Garcia warns against shifting emissions to the marine side. He also advocates for a Senate bill to regulate air quality and emissions from warehouse facilities.
"We're seeing a clustering of last-mile warehouses in environmental justice communities," Garcia said. "Folks that have to wake up and live with these facilities have no input, so we want to make sure these warehouse operators are being good neighbors."
Sun admits that while the initiative doesn’t solve the problem entirely, many neighborhoods where there’s heavy truck deliveries will see a difference. She also says there’s a growing signal from the private sector to invest in hybrid or electric powered vessels to transport freight by water.
"The vision is that all those pieces of the supply chain overtime will become greener, electric, and have zero impact on our climate," said Sun.
The EDC aims for substantial completion of the infrastructure of all six landings by the end of 2025.

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