Domestic cargo should be moved out of trucks and on to ships, detouring around congested highways and through the nations more than 25,000 miles of navigable inland and coastal waterways instead, said Emil Frankel, the U.S. Department of Transportation's assistant secretary of transportation planning.

Speaking at the U.S. Maritime Administration's second annual Short Sea Shipping Conference in Sarasota, Frankel said: "It's a better way to increase freight movement without increasing congestion on the surface transportation system."

Frankel praised the Bush administration's proposed six-year transportation bill because it would place greater emphasis on improving intermodal facilities especially at seaports. Frankel said that many seaports lack the infrastructure to efficiently transfer cargo between boats to trucks -- some lack good access roads – and that could hamper efforts to move cargo from highways to waterways.

Frankel stood in for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who was scheduled to address the conference but did not attend for health reasons.