Technological improvements in freight transportation such as jumbo ships, double-stack trains, and long combination vehicles, as well as increases in e-commerce and just-in-time delivery schedules, have produced major pressures on intermodal cargo hubs and the access routes to them. As a result, serious land-side congestion problems are occurring at U.S. cargo transfer hubs, primarily seaports and rail terminals.
Furthermore, the operating environment for freight transportation is becoming increasingly competitive. This competitiveness is a function of supply chain logistics, shipping costs, and industry-driven strategies to structure and package their services in a cost-competitive and time-sensitive manner. Increased land-side congestion at cargo hubs threatens to impede their continued competitiveness and raise the transportation costs of goods moving through them.
Recent studies have highlighted the importance of developing stronger local community partnerships to implement statewide strategies for regional and international trade. It is increasingly important to educate communities about the economic significance, environmental aspects, and land-use issues surrounding cargo-hub access.
Despite the existence of various national, state, and local government funding programs, there is a scarcity of funding for land-access improvements at cargo hubs. Research is needed to better understand and use existing funding sources, as well as to investigate alternative methods to finance and execute infrastructure and operational improvements.
The objective of this research initiative is to identify and recommend effective strategies for improving land access to U.S. cargo hubs, through existing and emerging funding strategies and by developing partnerships and commitment within the local community. For the purpose of this study, cargo hubs are defined as all forms of major intermodal transfer points, including the following: airport, seaport, and domestic water terminal transfers to and from rail and truck; truck/rail transfers; and high-volume, truck-to-truck transfer hubs (e.g., package sort centers, break-bulk facilities, and re-load centers).
Accomplishment of the project objective will require the following tasks: (1) Conduct a review of all information sources relevant to improvement of cargo-hub access. These sources should include published reports, ongoing and completed research, and contacts with stakeholders or experts where appropriate. (2) From the review of existing research and experience, identify the factors that drive the need for improvements to land access to U.S. cargo hubs. These would include, but not be limited to, such factors as economic growth, traffic volumes, international trade patterns, market-access issues, environmental impacts and costs,
commodity mixes, changes in freight-industry structure, land use, and planning for future development. (3) Prepare an inventory of funding mechanisms currently available for improving land access to cargo hubs in the United States. This should include existing funding programs at the federal, state, regional, and local government levels, as well as emerging or innovative strategies that are being used or considered, such as public-private partnerships and direct user access fees. (4) Prepare an inventory of active or completed major cargo-hub improvement projects that have been initiated over the past 10 to 15 years in the United States, as well as relevant international examples. For each project, summarize the infrastructure or operational land-access improvements that were made and the methods used to finance the project. (5) From the inventory developed in Task 4, develop a list of at least 10 candidates for case studies to be presented in more detail later in Task 7, with at least one case study in each of the four AASHTO regions and international case studies potentially applicable to the United States. These projects should be representative of various regions, modes, and scale of operation. (6) Prepare an interim report on the information developed in Tasks 1 through 5. The contractor will be expected to meet with the NCHRP panel to discuss the report approximately 3 weeks later. (7) Following NCHRP approval of the Task 6 interim report, conduct the case study analysis and identify commonalties and applicability to the selected land-access improvement projects. Analyze the following: response to factors identified in Task 2; local needs, including environmental and economic development aspects; conditions that facilitated community acceptance and political support; and programs and mechanisms used to finance the project. (8) Based on case study analysis, and taking into account regional differences and the size of the cargo hub, present best practice recommendations for improved land access to cargo hubs, including the following: operational, planning, and policy changes; information technology solutions; infrastructure and equipment solutions; institutional barriers; community awareness; beneficial impacts of domestic and international goods movement; and public and private consensus for action and funding. (9) Identify whether direct user access-fee strategies were used or considered in the case study projects. Describe the process by which user fees were used or rejected as part of the funding strategy. Assess the effectiveness of user fees and evaluate their potential for similar freight land access projects. (10) Conduct an analysis of how the benefits of improving land access to cargo hubs are distributed to the users and to the public at the local, state, and national levels. Based on this analysis, develop options for the most appropriate allocation of costs to the users and the public sector at all levels. Analyze the potential feasibility of direct user access fees for land-access projects similar to those in the case studies. (11) Create a matrix of financing tools that illustrate the pros and cons of each tool for land-access improvement projects at cargo hubs. Develop recommendations on which funding mechanisms are most appropriate depending on the region, mode, scale of operation, regional or local conditions, and other relevant factors. (12) From the results of the project, prepare a PowerPoint presentation that can be used to educate a broad range of stakeholders about the local, regional, and national importance of land access to cargo hubs and that illustrates the various options and appropriate mechanisms for financing infrastructure and operational improvements. (13) Submit a final report that documents the entire research effort and summarizes the results of Tasks 1 through 12. In addition, provide a companion executive summary that outlines the research results.
The final report is available as NCHRP Report 497
. The Appendix B PowerPoint presentation summarizing the background, methodology, and results of the project can be downloaded (in Adobe PDF) via the link below.
NCHRP 8-39 AppxB