The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(046) [Final]

Freight Transportation: New Roles for State DOTs
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $79,544
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Lance Grenzeback
Effective Date: 4/12/2005
Completion Date: 10/31/2008

State departments of transportation are focusing increased attention on freight transportation. The reasons include
  • A rapidly increasing volume of freight
  • Transportation overloads at major freight gateways
  • Constraints on infrastructure capacity for all modes
  • The need for efficiency in intermodal connections
  • Heavy traffic in major multimodal, multi-state transportation corridors
Many state DOTs are analyzing the freight transportation needs of their states, giving greater priority to freight transportation investments, participating in public-private ventures, and engaging in innovative financing arrangements for freight projects.  For many, the change represents new lines of business and new ways of doing business. Many programmatic and technical issues are involved, but the foundation for programs must be constructed through policy and organization decisions. Agency leaders need to consider changes in their missions, their internal structures and in their ways of engaging productively with the private sector.

This project was intended to assist agency leaders to meet this need by facilitating focused, executive-level discussion among DOT CEOs and industry representatives.  Two workshop-seminar were to be developed and held:

    1. Freight Transportation: Redefining Public/Private Executing freight projects require that state DOTs engage with the private sector in ways not required for traditional highway projects. Doing this successfully requires understanding the composition of the relevant industry groups and their interests, resources, priorities, and constraints. To move in this direction, the seminar will focus on:

    • The importance of defining public benefit projects and proportioning public and private financing to the public and private benefits. For example, the Chicago CREATE program has involved the state and local public agencies with the six Class 1 railroads, the commuter rail system, and the local transit provider in a process that has determined the public and private benefits of expediting the movement of freight across the city and reached agreement on a financing package the reflects the distribution of benefits.
    • Best practices examples of public-private partnerships for investment in freight projects and the lessons learned from these cases. The most fully-developed examples are freight rail projects, such as the Alameda Corridor, the Shellpot Bridge, the Kansas City Flyovers, the FAST Corridor, the Reno 'trench,' and the Kyle Rairoad Company/Kansas DOT partnership for infrastructure upgrade.

    The seminar will involve persons from both government and business who have carried out public-private partnerships that work to achieve both separate and mutual objectives. It will yield recommendations for actions that can stimulate more private investment in public benefit projects. The seminar will be conducted in conjunction with a larger meeting that will showcase examples of successful public-private partnerships for investment in freight rail.

    2. Freight Transportation: Responding to New Missions Executing successful public-private partnerships for freight transportation requires that state DOTs make changes in their organization, staffing, and core functions such as planning, project development, and finance. This seminar will focus on:

    • The need to organize internally to respond effectively to the challenges of carrying out a freight transportation program. For example, the Maryland DOT has recently created an Office of Freight Logistics as a focal point for the department's freight activities, joining several other states, including Washington, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota that have established multimodal freight offices.
    • The need to organize for external working relationships with those who are essential to formulating and carrying out a freight transportation program. For example, the Colorado DOT has recently created a freight advisory committee, as have half a dozen other states, to create a means by which the private sector can be involved in freight transportation decisions.
    • The need to work effectively with other states on multistate, multimodal transportation corridors. For example, five of the I-95 corridor states have worked with NS, CSX, and Amtrak to agree on a set of project investments that will increase the efficiency of the east coast rail system and provide some relief for congestion on I-95.

In each seminar, senior DOT executives and private sector representatives from both the shipping and carrier communities were to be engaged.  Only the first seminar was completed, in Philadelphia in April, 2007.  The second seminar was not held.

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