The US Department of Transportation is planning to move more cargo on the water as part of efforts to promote waterways, cut emissions and reduce highway traffic.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said under America’s Marine Highway Programme the department’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) will help identify rivers and coastal routes to carry cargo.

The routes will bypass congested roads around busy ports, reducing greenhouse gases, LaHood said.

Under the new regulation regional transportation officials can apply for the construction of specific transportation corridors and even individual projects to be treated as marine highways.

Once designated, these projects will receive federal assistance from the department or MARAD, the secretary said.

Earlier this year, the department granted $58m for projects to support the start-up or expansion of Marine Highways services.