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3-24 Guidebook for Freight Policy, Planning, and Programming in Small- and Medium-Sized Metropolitan Areas Lack of partner participation. Convincing private Develop outreach strategies. There are a number of industry representatives to play an active role in strategies that can be employed to more fully engage the development of a transportation program the private sector freight community. SMTC has can be complicated by the planning horizon of established and maintains an extensive list of freight MPOs. It is a challenge to engage the private contacts, including a variety of private sector represen- sector in a planning process that looks out tatives, sister agencies throughout New York State, and 20 years or more. the NYS DOT. The Syracuse Intermodal Roundtable was created and maintained for a 5-year period to take advantage of industry partner knowledge. SMTC cur- rently maintains the relationships developed through the Roundtable and conducts outreach on an as needed basis. Identifying Freight Projects Overview The development of a freight program relies on a variety of factors. The policy and planning activities allow MPO staff to define the system, its characteristics, and its needs. However, if it stops there, it remains a static snapshot with no improvement element. Converting the needs and deficiencies into actual improvement projects that can be evaluated, prioritized, funded, and implemented helps a plan evolve into a program. The freight project identification process is the first programming element addressed by the Guidebook. Freight project identification refers to the activities associated with identifying projects that address current or anticipated deficiencies between the existing freight transportation system capabilities and existing or anticipated needs. Although many MPOs have not historically invested in nonroadway freight projects, it is important to include the needs of all modes in the project identification because policies relating to investment decisions are being revisited by many states and MPOs. The majority of roadway projects have some impact on an area's freight and logistics system (ranging from a large impact such as a major bypass proposal to a small impact such as the sim- ple retiming of traffic signals). As such, when asked if freight is considered as part of the trans- portation program, many MPOs refer to the overall benefit of roadway improvements. This can complicate the process of identifying freight-specific improvement projects. Optimally, project identification activities should result in the identification of solutions for addressing system defi- ciencies that meet the region's macro-level goals and objectives. Basic versus Advanced Approach It is difficult to distinguish between basic and advanced approaches to freight project identifi- cation. In part it is tied to the level of effort undertaken in the areas of regional freight profile and freight needs and deficiencies. These two areas provide much of the data used to identify and develop specific projects. The basic approach focuses on evaluating existing projects identified and developed as part of traditional transportation planning and programming activities to identify those that would create the most significant benefit to freight operations. This process works to identify and promote projects that would most directly impact freight operations. For example, the development of a divided through lane on an expressway traversing a downtown area would serve truck traffic passing through the region more so than a landscaping project in a residential area. The advanced approach focuses on the creation and implementation of a process to identify freight-specific projects to integrate into the overall transportation program. For example, proj- ects would be identified that specifically address an identified freight bottleneck or need. Improv- ing an interchange between a key intermodal connector and a major roadway would improve access to the neighboring freight facility (port, rail yard, airport, etc.).

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Integrating Freight into MPO Activities 3-25 Key Activities The identification of freight-specific projects relies on MPO staff having an understanding of current freight needs. The objective of this activity is to begin to define potential projects that will improve or alleviate existing bottlenecks within the freight system. To effectively undertake this activity, staff must have access to infrastructure and operations data, as well as input from regional partners. LOS information, high-accident locations, missing or inadequate intermodal connectors are all factors that feed into this process. MPOs already have a process in place for the development or generation of project concepts. Typically, this process provides opportunities to various agencies and local partners (i.e., MPO staff, industry, the general public) to recommend project concepts for consideration. As staff members work to define freight-specific projects, it is important that they work within or inte- grate with the established transportation planning process. This will help ensure that potential freight improvement projects meet the requirements and expectations of the transportation planning and programming activities, thus helping ensure freight projects receive the same level of consideration as nonfreight projects in the pipeline. Basic Approach Activity Identifying Freight Projects--Basic Activity Type Planning and Programming Level of Effort Low Technical Complexity Low Data/Analytical Tool Needs Low. Relies on established list of overall transportation projects and avail- able freight data. Outreach/Partnership Needs Low. Requires limited outreach to a small number of private partners to validate projects identified as beneficial to freight. Training/Education Needs Low. Requires staff to apply basic freight knowledge to project identifica- tion activities; should explore resources available from FHWA. http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/FPD/index.asp Related Activities Builds on existing transportation program elements and freight work completed to date, such as Regional Freight Profile, Freight Needs and Deficiencies, and Developing a Freight LRP Element. Key Activity: Identify and promote existing transportation projects that best accommodate and address freight needs. Step 1. Review projects identified by the overall transportation program activities. Exist- ing project concepts will be used to identify those that best serve freight operations. These proj- ects likely will consist of a variety of roadway projects designed to improve regional mobility and access, as well as improve safety. Step 2. Conduct interviews with a small number of freight stakeholders. Once a list of potential freight projects have been identified, MPO staff should reach out to key freight stake- holders to build consensus and develop a better idea of project priorities. In addition, the part- ners may be able to modify the project concepts or suggest alternate ideas that can serve as other potential projects. Step 3. Develop a list of freight sensitive projects. Based on Steps 1 and 2, MPO staff should develop and document an official list of projects proposed to best serve the region's freight needs. It is anticipated that this list and methodology would be expanded on and improved as part of

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3-26 Guidebook for Freight Policy, Planning, and Programming in Small- and Medium-Sized Metropolitan Areas subsequent freight planning and programming activities. This list also can be an effective out- reach tool to the private sector freight industry, helping potential stakeholders understand what the MPO already is doing to improve freight movements. Advanced Approach Activity Identifying Freight Projects--Advanced Activity Type Planning and Programming Level of Effort High Technical Complexity High Data/Analytical Tool Needs High. Relies on data and analyses provided by related activities; signifi- cant outreach to private partners through interviews, focus groups, and formation of freight technical advisory committee. Outreach/Partnership Needs High. Requires significant outreach to private partners through inter- views, focus groups, general public, and a freight technical advisory committee. Training/Education Needs Moderate. Requires staff to apply more advanced freight knowledge to multiple program areas; should explore resources and training available from FHWA and NHI. http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/FPD/index.asp Related Activities Regional Freight Profile, Freight Needs and Deficiencies, LRP Freight Element. Key Activity: Identify and describe freight-specific projects. Step 1. Review the freight needs and deficiencies statement. The advanced approach relies on the existence of a regional freight profile and subsequent freight needs and deficiencies statement. To identify and develop freight projects, MPO staff should have access to signifi- cant data and resources that describe current limitations and highlight key industry-specified performance indicators. If this material is not available, staff is encouraged to first complete these two activities. This approach is not recommended for MPOs that have not completed the earlier steps. Step 2. Identify potential projects based on existing bottlenecks. The needs and defi- ciencies statement should provide staff with detailed data on existing bottlenecks and key pri- orities based on regional supply chain management practices. Based on this review, staff should identify key bottlenecks and define potential improvement projects. As part of the effort, staff should review existing projects to ascertain if there are any plans already in place to improve the problem. Step 3. Conduct outreach to private stakeholders to validate potential projects. Once staff has developed a list of potential projects, private stakeholders should validate them. This can be accomplished through interviews or focus groups. The intent is to build support for the projects (identify possible project champions) and provide an opportunity for refinements to existing concepts and the identification of additional concepts. Step 4. Refine and select key freight project concepts. Based on the results of the outreach, a final list of project concepts should be developed. This list should represent the best informa- tion available from both qualitative and quantitative sources. Step 5. Define preliminary project descriptions. More detailed descriptions of the project concepts should be developed to provide background information and development consider- ations. This will facilitate staff's ability to build support for the projects.

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Integrating Freight into MPO Activities 3-27 Polk Transportation Planning Organization (TPO)--Identifying Freight Projects The Polk TPO is the MPO for Polk County in central Florida. One of the Polk TPO's biggest success stories is the West Memorial (U.S. 92) Interchange on I-4 in the northwestern part of Lakeland. This full movement interchange will significantly improve truck travel patterns by providing direct eastbound and westbound access to I-4 for trucks operating to and from Lakeland's large distribution facilities (groceries, furniture, automotive parts, etc.). Currently, trucks must use surface roads through the city of Lakeland to reach access ramps for I-4. This project, championed by many local stakeholders, successfully maneuvered the transportation planning process. It was included in the 2025 LRTP Update and subsequently programmed in the TIP. The interchange opened to traffic in late 2005. The successful completion of this project was the result of a focused effort, involving multiple parties, that would not have resulted from a typical planning process (i.e., Florida DOT [FDOT] models did not initially justify the major expense of the project). Shippers and carriers using the industrial area in northwest Lakeland, frustrated by poor access to I-4, communicated the need for the interchange to the Lakeland and Central Florida Economic Development Councils (EDCs). The communication of this need was facilitated by a longstanding rela- tionship between the companies and the EDCs. The importance of the improve- ments was then relayed to the Polk TPO. With the need for an improved interchange documented, the Polk TPO worked with FDOT to come up with an affordable and fully functional solution to the problem. The result was a full movement interchange design that could be built entirely within existing right of way and at a lower cost than an earlier design. With support from the freight community, the mayor of Lakeland, the TPO Board, the local community, and backing from the FDOT district office, the revised interchange was programmed in the MPO's TIP. Step 6. Review detailed project descriptions with private partners. To ensure that the selected projects and their descriptions are accurate and meet the needs of existing supply chain management practices, MPO staff should conduct follow-up outreach activities with key private partners. These activities should focus on those partners that will be directly impacted by proposed projects. This can be accomplished through one-on-one meetings, focus groups, or both. Step 7. Integrate final project list into overall transportation program activities. Once staff has developed and described the list of freight projects, the projects should be integrated into the overall list within the defined program processes, which will feed the LRP and TIP processes. Common Issues and Potential Solutions The development of a list of freight-specific projects is limited by data, staff expertise, and dependence on other activities in the planning and programming process. The following sum- marizes the key challenges and offers potential solutions: