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CHAPTER 1 Introduction This introduction provides background context on the purpose and use of this report. It sum- marizes the motivation for considering rail freight options as a solution for addressing traffic congestion, the types of rail freight strategies that can be applied, and the types of situations in which they can be most relevant. It then describes how this report can be used to aid policy devel- opment and evaluation of alternatives. 1.1 Rail Freight as a Solution to Congestion The Congestion Problem Over the past decade, both urban and intercity highway traffic has continued to grow at rates far in excess of capacity expansion, leading to increasing congestion-related delays and accidents, as well as increasing concerns about congestion implications for air quality, delivery reliability, security, and vehicular incursion into residential areas. Types of Actions to Address Congestion There are various ways to reduce or minimize the growth of traffic congestion on highways. They fall into three basic categories: Expand highway system capacity through construction of new or modified lanes, ramps, traf- fic controls, or other traffic management systems; Institute pricing and regulations to shift highway use by encouraging or requiring some road travelers to shift routes or times of day; and Expand options for alternative modes by enhancing available options for alternative modes of travel, such as use of railroads in place of roadways. Focus on Rail Freight All three of these categories of solutions can, in theory, be aimed at passenger travel or freight travel. Yet while passenger travel accounts for the majority of vehicles on most roads, trucks have a particularly significant impact on highway congestion for several reasons. Trucks take up more space and require broader separation than cars. Some car drivers are also intimidated by large numbers of trucks mixed with cars on highways, which further adds to traffic congestion. Freight movement and truck traffic are growing at a faster rate than passenger movement and car traffic on highways. Finally, some policy makers see rail freight as an economically viable and sustain- able alternative to intercity truck freight, while the rail option for intercity passenger movement usually requires subsidies. G-1

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G-2 Guidebook for Assessing Rail Freight Solutions to Roadway Congestion These statements over-simplify complex situations and many other factors affect the viability and benefit of rail freight as an option to reduce highway traffic. However, these statements indi- cate the motivation for examining mode alternatives, such as rail freight, as one path for con- trolling the growth of traffic congestion. Situations Where Rail Freight Enhancement May be Relevant Railroads can offer a viable or potentially viable alternative to trucking in some situations, and that alternative becomes of particular interest when expanded use of rail freight can reduce either existing traffic congestion levels or needs for expanding highway capacity in the future. In gen- eral, the situations where rail freight enhancement may be most appropriate are cases where Heavy traffic growth calls for expanding highway capacity, yet highway expansion is made impractical by high cost or engineering difficulties; High levels of truck traffic in a corridor lead to particularly severe local congestion problems; Problems with the rail network structure restrict the role of rail from offering a viable alter- native for freight movement; The rail network structure has at-grade crossings or other features that restrict the perfor- mance of roadways; Freight users are too small or scattered for efficient rail use, yet consolidation of demand or other strategies could make rail service economically viable; or The region's economic growth is or will be threatened by an overall lack of goods movement capacity. Actions to Promote Greater Use of Rail Freight Public agencies may consider a range of policies, incentive programs, or project invest- ments to encourage greater use of rail freight and divert some growth of truck traffic to those rail alternatives. Public agencies may also consider public-private cost sharing to encourage such solutions. Generally, the types of solutions that may be considered can be classified into efforts to Better rationalize (reconfigure) the center city rail network; Reduce conflicts among road and rail traffic flows; Increase use of rail/truck intermodal transportation; Improve the level of rail service locally available to industry; and/or Upgrade rail facilities to handle taller or heavier railcars. Those are described further in Exhibit 1-1. Private- and Public-Sector Planning Perspectives These various types of "rail freight solutions" span an array of different size scales, reaching from individual facilities to region-wide programs and policies. These solutions also affect a wide range of parties from whom information is required. Even the initial screening method described in this guide requires some basic information on currently (or potentially) available rail facili- ties and services, in order to ascertain whether rail can even be considered as a viable option for reducing truck traffic. Freight planning differs from normal urban and regional highway planning. While the field of urban and regional transportation planning has evolved a series of standardized data sources and planning methods over a period of decades, they have focused most heavily on passenger travel. The data sources and methods required for identifying and analyzing freight transporta- tion patterns are less well developed, partly because freight transportation needs are predomi-