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Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects (2019)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
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Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

6 Freight is a critical aspect of any economic activity, and freight investments allow freight to move with ease across America’s transportation system. A freight investment helps improve current conditions of infrastructure to ease freight movement. Money put toward a freight project can be used in many different ways, including widening a key freight-heavy highway, making improvements in intermodal freight yards, or creating truck-only lanes. A clearer picture of what qualifies as a freight investment can be found in Chapter 2. This report provides an overview of the current state of freight investment prioritization methodologies. The researchers of the study reported herein conducted a literature review, a survey, and case examples of departments of transportation (DOTs) in order to identify and synthesize successful practices that can help transportation agencies integrate effective freight prioritization processes into agency practices. Prioritizing freight investments allows state, regional, and local entities to deliberate on funding decisions to ensure that resources will be invested in the areas that need them most. This study delivers a thorough understanding of freight project prioritization methods used by the wide array of project investment decision makers, and the role that metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and the private sector play in freight transportation. This report reveals the short- and long-term impacts of freight investment on regional, statewide, and nationwide freight system movements. This synthesis provides information to understand the freight prioritization methods and how that have evolved in response to current conditions. DOT freight plans provide evidence that while transportation agencies still grapple with many of the same freight planning prob- lems (e.g., lack of freight data, limited outreach to freight industry), new and more-inclusive performance-driven approaches are in development, such as the use of freight fluidity perfor- mance measures, which focus on measures of transit time for a given product, route reliability, and costs. The rest of this chapter is organized as follows: the study approach and methodology are discussed next, followed by a detailed overview of the literature review, survey, and case example procedures. Study Approach The research team gathered information from governing bodies to understand what methods and processes are performed to prioritize freight projects. To do so, the information gather- ing process was broken into three parts, each step collecting new and additional information. First, a literature review was performed in the form of a systematic review to find theoretical C H A P T E R 1 Introduction

Introduction 7 and practical information on how entities currently prioritize freight projects. The literature review acted as the surface layer of the project. This systematic review examined all available freight plans published by state DOTs. Also, additional supporting information was gathered, examining successful practices, workshops, and reports. The systematic review process ensured the complete assessment of all available information on the subject and provided a base for the survey and case examples. The literature review helped researchers build the questionnaire for the survey, which was the second step in the process. The survey was distributed to state DOTs and other vital stakeholders engaged in state and regional freight planning, addressing the opinions and implementation process for their freight investment prioritization methods. This additional insight allowed researchers to go beyond what could be found in the published freight plans and other work by uncovering the background information and factors associated with freight prioritization that are present when forming a freight investment plan. To further the understanding of freight prioritization methodologies, six case examples were developed as the third step to document real cases of how freight prioritization is approached by agencies. The case examples helped fill the gaps in information following the literature review and survey. Interviews were conducted to gain insight about freight prioritization methods. Because the case examples were the last portion of the research project, the most fine-grained information is synthesized in the related sections. Figure 2 shows the organization of this report, based on the synthesis process. Description of the Literature Review A comprehensive assessment of current freight prioritization practices was conducted based on strategies implemented in the United States and internationally. A systematic review method was used to gather available literature in a robust and repeatable fashion. The purpose of this literature review method is to be scientific, transparent, and replicable throughout fields while minimizing bias. The objectives of this project’s systematic review process were to • Assess the available freight project prioritization methodologies in a robust, repeatable, and transparent manner to diminish bias; • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of all methodologies used in practice, including – DOTs, – Regional MPOs, – Local governing bodies, and – International sources; and • Compare and contrast each methodology, finding similarities and differences to discover patterns and successful practices within the body of literature. The research team created a spreadsheet designed to organize the reviewed literature. The spreadsheet included many different variables in the columns to keep a consistent review of all methodologies. An initial search was performed through the Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) and the Transportation Research International Database (TRID). The systematic review process allowed the exploration of existing federal, state, and local sources (e.g., NCHRP, National Cooperative Freight Research Program [NCFRP], FHWA, and U.S. Department of Transportation [U.S. DOT] reports), academic journal articles, and conference proceedings. Several search tools and other sources were available to the researchers, including TRID, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) libraries, Internet search engines,

8 Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects Source: Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Figure 2. Report outline and processes. professional association resources, and personal libraries of professional sources. Many web sources assisted in the collection of literature within the scope of this project, including Google Scholar, state DOT websites, MPO websites, and local municipality online sources. The results were divided into two categories: literature originating in the United States and literature from international sources. The results were sifted, and additional literature was added based on the sources’ biblio graphies, including other relevant material found through supplementary web searches. The results were compiled into an Excel spreadsheet, and after a thorough investigation of each prioritization methodology, a list of current practices was created. Many different variables within the literature were examined to obtain a general picture of the body of literature. The same spreadsheet setup was used for both the U.S. literature and the international literature. The factors that were included in the spreadsheet are listed in Table 1. The literature assessment, using the above criteria, determined the overall patterns and provided a deeper understanding of the processes that governing bodies implement to rank freight projects. A total of 31 state DOT freight plans created between 2012 and

Introduction 9 2018 were collected and analyzed for this project. More freight plans exist; however, only 31 state DOT plans provided a methodology for freight project prioritization. Each plan was placed in the matrix and compared with the other plans. Patterns of similarities and differences among the plans started to emerge, and the synthesis of these plans is provided in Chapters 2 and 3. Description of the Survey The survey gathered information from a respondent group focused on freight planning who worked within state DOTs at senior levels of the organization. The survey was conducted through online web tools because these tools offered the required flexibility and outreach at a low cost. The intent of the survey was to determine the current attitudes toward freight planning and programming within the state DOTs; the extent of freight planning and project prioritization within state DOTs; and various factors and data needs and uses to carry out these freight planning activities. Survey Respondents The total number of respondents was 41, but since two of these responses came from California DOT, the research team counted it as one response; hence the study collected Variables Factors General details of the study Agency. Decision-making level (state, MPO, local). How is the study linked to an existing body of research? Purpose of literature What are the authors trying to achieve in writing this? What problems are the methodology addressing? Methodology Sample and scope of the methodology. Methods. Main prioritization features and decision factors, and proposed classifications or taxonomies based on these features and factors. Is framework multimodal? Assets and budget Available assets and owned assets. Allocation of project funding. Project evaluation Freight performance measures. Economic impact analysis. How decision makers consider scoring criteria in the prioritization process. Barriers to implementation. Freight planning expertise Urban or rural land use. New technologies used. Political influence. Innovative policies, strategies, and practices to develop freight planning expertise within agencies. First- or last-mile experience. Partnerships in decision-making process Contributions to freight prioritization project. Decision factor’s weighting Motivation of prioritization. Qualitative vs. quantitative balance. Factors given certain weights in the scoring process. Additional information Big data standardization. Gaps in the prioritization process that could hinder the outcome. Is the methodology only focused on freight or are there additional methodologies for other projects? Additional resources used. FAST Act examples. Benefits from prioritization. Table 1. Variables assessed in the literature review.

10 Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects responses from 40 different agencies, representing every region of the United States. AASHTO distributed the survey by e-mail to the AASHTO Committee on Planning and the Freight Planning Task Force members, requesting that freight planning leaders across all 52 AASHTO member departments (state DOTs) complete the survey. Freight leads at these 52 AASHTO member departments served as the effective sampling frame. Sixty-five percent of participants held the title of freight or planning director/manager/specialist and were considered specific freight planning leads within their state DOT, while 35% were a senior- or mid-level planner in support of freight planning efforts. Approximately 95% of participants indicated that they worked for planning departments within their respective state DOTs, and 3% indicated that they worked in administration. Figure 3 summarizes this information graphically based on states. Survey Method Researchers programmed the online survey questionnaire using Qualtrics software. Question types were primarily closed-response categories with check-off boxes to reduce respondent burden. The team sent e-mail messages to sampled individuals with an embedded link to the online survey (see Appendix C). Survey Topics Survey question topics included • Organizational information (i.e., primary department function, freight program access to or place on executive board, degree of buy-in to freight prioritization methods, freight planning organizational capabilities); Source: Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Figure 3. Survey respondents (darker shading).

Introduction 11 • Agency goals in ranked relation and importance to freight project prioritization (1–7). • Importance of established planning factors and common freight project prioritization methods and program components found in literature; • Freight asset ownership share among public-sector, private-sector, and local authorities, public–private partnerships (PPPs), and concessions; • Use of multimodal freight prioritization frameworks and methods; • Freight performance measures, related data sources, and their importance to various aspects of planning (i.e., environment, economy); and • Barriers and opportunities in freight planning and project prioritization. Description of the Case Examples From the respondents, six DOTs were selected for the case examples. The selections were made based on geographic location and diversity in the survey responses. Follow-up interviews with these selected DOTs were performed. A basic script was prepared for these interviews, which focused on covering missing information from the literature review and survey and documenting the steps of the freight prioritization process or similar processes. Figure 4 displays which DOTs participated in the case example process. Synthesis Organization—Outline of Report This report is organized as follows. The introduction described the background and study approach. Chapter 2 looks at agency perspectives. Specifically, Chapter 2 summarizes infor- mation originating from agency perspectives of freight prioritization gathered through the Source: Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Figure 4. Case example participants (darker shading).

12 Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects literature search, survey, and case examples. The purpose of the agency perspective section is to understand the motivation for freight prioritization. This information includes the reasons why state, regional, local, and international entities prioritize their freight projects; funding sources used; types of partnerships in freight projects; evaluation methods; and factors, barriers, and opportunities that are associated with the implementation of freight projects. Chapter 3 describes the different freight investment prioritization methods that have been and are currently being used. Additional information collected is also described in Chapter 3. Finally, Chapter 4 summarizes the findings and state of the practice. Appendices A through F follow the References and present matrixes, the survey e-mail sample, state DOT performance measures, the online survey questionnaire and results, and case examples.

Next: Chapter 2 - Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies »
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Freight investment project prioritization, which is used to assist in planning and programming 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.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program's NCHRP Synthesis 542: Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects identifies the state of the practice of freight project prioritization and common steps across all state DOTs in the nation.

State DOTs have a variety of motivations for freight project prioritization, including the FAST Act. For DOTs to receive additional federal funding, a priority list of freight projects must be produced. However, because the FAST Act regulations do not include a specific methodology to help DOTs rank their freight projects, many different processes are used by the state DOTs for ranking.

This report synthesizes the available literature on the subject so that DOTs creating a prioritization process can identify successful practices in the current state of the practice.

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