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1 Freight investment project prioritization, which is used to assist in planning and pro- gramming decisions, differs widely in importance across states. One of the reasons for the difference in importance is the fact that freight projects are costly, and state departments of transportation (DOTs) face limited resources to implement them. As a result, there is substantial opportunity to share and leverage effective practices within various areas of freight investment analysis and methodology from across the country. NCHRP Project 20-05/Topic 49-01, Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects, gathered information on the prioritization process of freight investment projects. This studyâconducted in three partsâsought to develop an overview of the current state of freight investment prioritization and methodology. First, a literature review using system- atic review methodology revealed theoretical and practical information on how entities prioritize and recommend freight projects. The systematic review examined all available freight plans published by state DOTs and supporting information from workshop pub- lications and practical reports. The systematic review process ensured a comprehensive assessment of all available information on the subject and provided a base for the other parts of the study. Researchers examined approximately 150 references, selecting 68 for the literature analysis. Second, a survey was developed and distributed to state DOTs and stakeholders engaged in state freight planning to understand the opinions and implemen- tation process for their freight investment prioritization methods. Researchers collected 40 survey responses. There were actually 41 responses, but since two of these came from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the research team counted it as one response for the purposes of determining the accurate response rate among the sample of 50 state DOTs. Last, six case examples were conducted to gather insight into agency perspectives on current freight prioritization methods. Research Approach Researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis of national and international freight prioritization practices with the following objectives: â¢ Assess the available freight project prioritization methodologies in a robust, repeatable, and transparent manner to diminish bias. â¢ Conduct a comprehensive analysis of all methodologies used in practice by state DOTs. â¢ Compare and contrast each methodology, finding similarities and differences to discover patterns and successful practices within the body of literature. â¢ Use the knowledge gathered from the results of the analysis to develop a methodological base for state DOTs, regional metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), local entities, S U M M A R Y Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects
2 Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects and international governments to consider when evaluating their own freight project prioritization and selection practices. The first chapter of this report primarily discusses the research approach of the project, followed by a summarization of the literature review, survey, and case examples. The survey helped determine attitudes toward freight planning and programming within state DOTs. The response rate for state DOTs to the survey was 80%, which included 40 of 50 states. There were actually 41 responses, but since two of these came from Caltrans, the research team counted it as one response for the purpose of determining the accurate response rate among the sample of 50 state DOTs. Respondents were selected for the case examples based on geographic location and heterogeneity in the survey responses. Because this study attempted to fully understand freight perspectives, requirements, and current practice, the entirety of the information needed for this research project could not be provided by one source. The literature review assessed the current practice found in relevant literature, state DOT plans, and regional MPO plans. However, in order to dig deeper in the analysis, a survey was distributed to most existing transportation agencies. Additionally, the case examples allowed the research team to fully gain a comprehensive perspective of freight prioritization. Main Findings Agency and organization perspectives range drastically in freight planning and project prioritization, specifically among state DOTs, MPOs, local governing bodies, trucking companies, logistic providers, economic development agencies, commercial real estate developers, railroad companies, and retailers. Nevertheless, the literature review identified four common methodology types: tier-based methods, step-based methods, criteria- or goal-based methods, and prioritization assistance tools. This report includes the terms âprocessâ and âmethodâ throughout, and a distinction between the two is important. A process is broadly defined and comprises various methods that describe the overall collection of steps that governing bodies use to prioritize freight projects. Methods are more specific and targeted, and several can be used in the prioritization process. Costâbenefit analyses were the original highway prioritization method recommended by FHWA; however, today, costâbenefit analyses are a single component in an overall prioritization process. Freight Prioritization Initiatives and Factors Generally, prioritization of roadway projects has been weighted based on costâbenefit analysis, as historically recommended by FHWA. Other impacts such as safety, environ- mental, and system maintenance are considered in a prioritization strategy, allowing multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) methods to rise in use. Quantitative methods used in traditional prioritization strategies encourage stakeholder input to weigh and assess freight projects based on all factors important to the DOT, MPO, or local entity. A freight advisory committee (FAC) or similar bodies with a balanced amount of stakeholder perspectives are incorporated to create a fair assessment of the prioritization of projects. A combination of the literature review and the survey revealed the following factors that affect the prioritization process: â¢ Funding sourcesâVarious sources are used to subsidize freight projects, including Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants, Transportation Investment Generating
Summary 3 Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, congestion mitigation funds, air quality improve- ment funds, highway safety improvement funds, and other various federal dollars. â¢ BarriersâDeficiencies in staffing/organizational capacity, lack of policy-maker support, right-of-way (ROW) constraints, neighborhood opposition, business/receiver opposi- tion, opposition by truckers/delivery persons, lack of interagency coordination, lack of data or data-processing ability, and environmental concerns are included. â¢ Ranking criteriaâSafety and security, economic competitiveness, environmental steward- ship, infrastructure preservation and maintenance/asset management, congestion relief, system performance, and increased connectivity are used. â¢ AssetsâState-owned assets that are involved in freight movement, including roads, rail lines, ships and seaports, aviation, and intermodal connectivity facilities, need to be considered. â¢ Data availabilityâDifferent quantitative data pertaining to the movement of freight and their impact on the economy. Freight Prioritization Process from Case Examples Six case examples helped researchers better understand the prioritization process used by state DOTs. Although the majority of DOTs use different project selection methods, most follow a common theme, as seen in Figure 1. For instance, the Minnesota DOT and the Indiana DOT conduct a call for projects, whereas other agencies, such as the Texas DOT, use their existing unified transportation plan (UTP). The Texas DOT shortlists freight projects from its UTP since the plan has a combination of freight-related and non- freight-related projects. After the projects are shortlisted, they undergo a second iteration based on criteria that align with the state freight goalsâa common theme throughout all the case examples. Common criteria from all state DOT prioritization processes included safety, mobility and reliability, economic competitiveness, multimodal connectivity, and sustainable funding. Each case example included an expert internal project team for the first iteration. Projects were prioritized, and a list was sent to the FAC, which commonly consisted of private and public stakeholders. The FAC, as part of its role, provided input. Survey respondents were mostly optimistic about the prospects of freight system efficiency improvements (100%) and economic development (95%) resulting from improved freight project prioritization processes, and the case examples showed this same trend. Regional/MPO Role in Freight Prioritization Process According to the survey of state DOT freight planning leaders, 51% consider the decision level (regional and/or state) at which freight projects are prioritized to be of critical importance. While research findings indicate that MPOs are not central to state- wide freight project prioritization and selection processes, they do provide essential information and input to these processes. Of 40 state DOTs surveyed, 85% indicated that MPOs participate in data sharing; 93% indicated that MPOs contribute to freight planning review; and 90% indicated that MPOs actively participate in statewide FACs or meetings related to freight project prioritization. The case examples supported the survey findings, which indicated that MPOsâ roles in freight project prioritization at the state level are largely relegated to service on FACs, and through contribution of project selection and prioritization data and content derived from long-range metropolitan transportation planning activities. At best, MPOs provide vital data and regional planning content and review inputs to enable a more informed statewide freight project prioritization process;
4 Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects at worst, they are included as afterthoughts to foregone freight project selection decisions made at the state DOT district or statewide level. Conclusions This report documents a review and synthesis of the freight prioritization methods of state DOTs. State DOTs have a variety of motivations that drive freight project prioritiza- tion, including the FAST Act. For DOTs to receive additional federal funding, a priority list of freight projects must be provided. However, the FAST Act regulations do not include a specific methodology to help DOTs rank their freight projects. The literature review identified four common methodology types: tier-based methods, step-based methods, criteria- or goal-based methods, and prioritization assistance tools. STEP 1 - Identification Process Departments of Transportation (DOTs) analyze and identify needs, through State Transportation Plans that range from five to ten years out. In most cases, this analysis includes a broader scope than just freight. Once needs are identified (typically from a larger list), agencies select projects which address these needs. The Minnesota and Indiana Departments of Transportation release an annual call for projects. STEP 2 - Internal Project Evaluation Once projects are selected to mitigate for geographic need, DOT project teams evaluate projects based on a set of quantitative and qualitative criteria. These criteria are based on expert opinion and in most cases approved by panels and committees, that align with state goals such as: mobility, safety, economic competitiveness, infrastructure development, and efficiency of freight transportation. Data used to evaluate projects are from public and private sources. STEP 3 - Project Selection Once agency teams evaluate projects, a list is recommended to committees and advisory panels, who primarily use qualitative measures to develop a final list. Many of the projects selected are tied to Federal Performance Measures and to where the most need in the state resides. Most of the projects are ranked 3 to 5 years out. STEP 4 - Project Implementation Projects are selected and funding is distributed based on availability (or until funds run out). Responsibility for the implementation of projects is typically dispersed to the local (district) or regional agency. Even though districts are responsible for delivering projects, they are part of the State DOT prioritization process. Many of the agencies strive to improve the process through the prioritization of needs from the local or regional level. Additionally, agencies are looking for more precise economic data to better understand future economic conditions at a local level. Source: Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Figure 1. Common freight prioritization projects based on the case examples.
Summary 5 Some states have multiple steps within their prioritization process, so it was not uncommon to see more than one of these methods used. Most state DOTsâ prioritization process includes both qualitative and quantitative methods, but some states use only one of these measures. On the survey, the total number of respondents was 41, from 40 different state DOTs, representing every region of the United States. Researchers submitted the survey to Freight leads at 50 state DOTs as the effective sampling frame. Caltrans provided two responses, but for the purpose of counting the response rate among 50 state DOTs, the research team documented Caltrans as one response. The case examples showed that even though needs of states vary throughout the United States, a set of common prioritization process steps is followed. Even after the adoption of the FAST Act and MAP-21, states did not completely modify their original process since freight was already viewed as an important topic. Overall, this report synthesizes the freight prioritization efforts of state DOTs in the form of a literature review, an online survey, and case examples. Factors and barriers are examined, including staffing/organizational capacity, lack of policy-maker support, ROW constraints, neighborhood opposition, business/receiver opposition, opposition by truckers/delivery persons, lack of interagency coordination, lack of data or data-processing ability, environmental concerns, safety and security, economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship, infrastructure preserva- tion and maintenance or asset management, congestion relief, system performance, and increased connectivity. Further research is necessary to create a standardized methodology for freight prioritization.