The National Academies

NCFRP 23 [Final]

Economic and Transportation Drivers for Siting Freight Intermodal and Warehouse Distribution Facilities

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Research Agency: CWS Consulting
Principal Investigator: Christopher Steele
Effective Date: 11/5/2009
Completion Date: 5/31/2011
Comments: Published as NCFRP Report 13

Public officials at the state and local level are frequently called on to consider the siting of freight intermodal terminals, inland ports, and warehouses and distribution centers.   The public-sector audience includes agencies such as state departments of commerce and transportation, MPOs, local officials, economic development organizations, and planning offices. Decisions to pursue these facilities as economic development generators as a supporting function for current and future businesses or in response to outside proposals have a greater potential for success when the public sector understands the private-sector financial and transportation drivers. A limited understanding of these critical site-selection drivers can lead public officials to expend time and resources on flawed strategies to attract facilities and incorrectly react to facility proposals.  For instance, they may not understand the differences between international and domestic freight markets in the supply chain, the various functions they provide, or their respective support requirements. This can ultimately lead to inefficient transportation systems and failed economic development strategies. To formulate effective economic development strategies and react appropriately to proposals for the development of public or private freight facilities, public-sector decisionmakers should have the benefit of a better understanding of these drivers and impacts.
The objective of this research is to develop a guide that (1) informs public-sector freight policy and decisionmakers about the key criteria that the private sector considers when siting logistics facilities, (2) informs the public sector about the complexity of the various facility types and the role they play in goods movement and supply chain management, and (3) enhances the potential for successful projects.
(1). Summarize public- and private-sector understanding of the issues and potential challenges involved in freight logistics facility location decisions, whether initiated by the public or private sector. (2). Review previous research on private-sector site-selection criteria. Identify and classify the freight logistic facilities (e.g., intermodal freight facilities, distribution centers, warehouses, transloading facilities, and cross docking facilities) that should be investigated and their role in goods movement. Describe international and domestic freight types, the logistics chains that support each, and how they interact with the overall transportation system.  (3).  For each freight logistics facility class identified in Task 2, develop a case study and specify the data and information required, including the types of freight flowing through such facilities and the support functions provided at the facilities, to complete the research objective. Compare case study information requirements to previously available research, and define the information gaps.  Identify typical public and private costs, benefits, and transportation system impacts of these facilities. (4). Four months after contract approval, submit the results of Tasks 1 through 3 and a stakeholder review plan (see Task 6 and Task 7) to the project panel in a webinar. (5). Conduct research required to eliminate information gaps identified in Task 3 and address any additional facilities or criteria identified by the panel. Develop an outline for Task 7.  (6). Upon project panel approval, develop the guide and consult with applicable private-sector decisionmakers for feedback.  Review the findings with public-sector officials and gather feedback. (7). Submit the final research report with an appended stand-alone document that public agencies can use as a guide to better inform the freight infrastructure facility recruiting and investment strategy and process.
STATUS: Published as NCFRP Report 13, Freight Facility Location Selection: A Guide for Public Officials.  The report is also available electronically at

http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/166143.aspx.   The background material used in the development of the report is available at http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/165743.aspx.


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