National Academies Press: OpenBook

Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects (2019)

Chapter: Chapter 2 - Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies

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Page 13
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies." 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 2 - Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies." 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 2 - Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
×
Page 15
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25581.
×
Page 16

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13 Introduction This chapter summarizes agency perspectives, concepts, and contextual information on freight prioritization and federal freight prioritization regulations. The chapter provides the background and context information needed to understand governing bodies’ motivation for freight project prioritization. Based on the literature review, survey results, and case examples, the material is synthesized according to each category. First, the literature review synthesis is described, including detailed information on the context of freight prioritization, specifically examining U.S. federal and international regulations on freight. A summary of the current literature on agencies’ perspectives is also provided. The chapter concludes with a fine-grained examination of agency perspectives through the survey and the case examples. The details pro- vided build off one another, giving the reader a comprehensive understanding of how different agencies collect the necessary equipment to prioritize their freight projects. For clarification, a distinction is made between process and method. A process is more broadly defined and comprises various methods. Methods are more specific and targeted than processes. A process describes the overall collection of steps that governing bodies use to priori- tize freight projects and encompasses two or three specific prioritization methods. Context Information and Agency Perspectives Found in the Literature Review The literature review section in this chapter summarizes the current state of the practice found in the available literature and identifies the initial background information necessary for the reader to understand the current state of freight planning nationally and internationally. This section begins with an examination of the U.S. federal requirements for a state DOT’s freight planning practice. The concept of a freight project is defined, and the FAST Act is described. International practice and regulations are then explored. After freight planning regulations are discussed, the literature review then synthesizes agency perspectives on freight prioritization by discussing all the factors identified in Chapter 1. All agency perspectives are discussed, including those of state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), local entities, and international sources. C H A P T E R 2 Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies

14 Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects Defining a Freight Project Because the freight industry touches all other industries in some way, freight projects can mean different things to different people or agencies. There is no one correct definition of a freight project, as seen in the various definitions found in state DOT freight plans. The freight network stretches far and wide and is a global industry. Creating a uniform definition of a freight project could be seen as a future research need. According to the U.S. DOT, a freight project could be any project that is • Freight focused, • Freight related, and • Freight impacted (1). According to FHWA, a freight-focused project is any improvement in the freight infra- structure system where freight fluidity improvement is the focus of the development. This definition is broad and can vary widely, and thus it may affect prioritization. For instance, freight-focused project examples can include a truck-only lane, rail improvements or relocations, highway repavement or reconstruction on truck-heavy roads, or development in shipping or container yards. A freight-related project can be any project that touches on multiple aspects of the transportation system, with freight transportation included as one of the addressed problems. These projects can be increased roadway capacity, highway reconstruction, or improved general access. A freight-impacted project assesses the potential impacts on proposed improvement projects. If freight movement does have an impact on the development, then the project is freight impacted (1). Different infrastructure improvement projects can be considered freight project. Projects assessed in the literature vary significantly. Most projects include widening roads, adding to the collector or arterial road network, reconfiguring intersections into interchanges, or repaving roadways. Overall, the proposed projects assessed in the literature usually consisted of freight-related projects that could benefit more modes of transportation than just the fluidity of freight movement. Federal policies throughout the years have attempted to meet the needs of freight projects, policies, and plans. As the freight industry has seen substantial growth, new federal policies have been created with additional requirements from state DOTs. The federal requirements are needed in order to implement new projects, policies, and plans for increasing freight needs. Federal Requirements in the United States A freight project, according to the U.S. DOT, is any project that is freight focused, related, or impacted. This can include a truck-only lane, rail improvements or relocations, highway repavement or reconstruction on truck-heavy roads, or development in shipping or container yards. A freight-related project can be any project that touches on multiple aspects of the transportation system, with freight included as one of the addressed problems. On June 29, 2012, Congress passed the MAP-21 federal surface transportation funding bill, and it was signed by President Obama on July 6, 2012 (2). Although many freight plans were collected during the literature review, because federal requirements are relatively new, many freight plans did not include prioritization methodologies. In any case, although the MAP-21 legislation requested that state DOTs construct a freight plan for the first time but did not require a prioritized list of projects, this legislation acted as the backbone to the federal involvement in the movement of freight and was the first transportation bill to emphasize the importance of regional freight fluidity.

Context Information and Agency Perspectives on Freight Investment Prioritization Methodologies 15 The FAST Act contained specific requirements for statewide freight planning (3). Building on the MAP-21 provisions, the FAST Act added to the federal requirements, with more specific regulations than just creating a statewide freight plan. Most importantly, the FAST Act established a road network heavily used by freight transportation, called the National Highway Freight Network (NHFN) (4). This is an important aspect of state freight planning and project priori- tization since only projects located within this network system qualify for federal funding (5). State DOTs use the NHFN to determine their weighting factors in terms of project prioritization. Freight projects on the NHFN are the identified highway projects that are prioritized within state DOTs’ freight plans. Multimodal freight projects are also included in state DOT plans, so projects outside the NHFN are also included, such as railroad improvements, port expansion, or multimodal freight transferring facilities. A new policy, National Multimodal Freight Policy, was established through the FAST Act (6). The purpose of this policy was to monitor and enhance freight performance through the NHFN. Through this policy, the U.S. DOT is required to work with state DOTs and regional MPOs to create a national freight plan, which should be completed 2 years after the policy was initiated. Figure 5 displays the federal requirements found in the two transportation legislation bills. Specifically, the language of the FAST Act requires state DOTs to create a “freight invest- ment plan that is fiscally constrained, includes a list of priority projects, and describes how funds made available to carry out section 167 of Title 23 would be invested and matched” (6). Also, the FAST Act created new legislation that requires DOT freight plans to incorporate 10 required elements: 1. Identification of significant freight system trends, needs, and issues; 2. Description of freight policies, strategies, and performance measures guiding transportation investment decisions; 3. When applicable, a listing of multimodal critical urban and rural freight facilities and corridors; 4. How the plan will improve the ability of the state to meet the goals of the National Multimodal Freight Policy and the National Highway Freight Program; 5. Innovative technologies and operational strategies that improve the safety and efficiency of freight movement; 6. Description of improvements that may be required to reduce or impede the deterioration due to heavy vehicles; 7. An inventory of facilities with freight mobility issues, such as bottlenecks and mitigation strategies; 8. Consideration of any significant congestion or delay caused by freight movements and mitigation strategies; Source: Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Figure 5. Federal freight requirements.

16 Prioritization of Freight Investment Projects 9. A freight investment plan that includes a list of priority projects and describes how funds would be invested and matched; and 10. Consultation with the state freight advisory committee (FAC), if applicable (7). These 10 new requirements led state DOTs to create updates to existing plans, or to create a new plan entirely. Since the newly required priority list suddenly became a requirement for increased federal funding without specific guidance on how to create that list, many state DOTs ended up creating their own prioritization methodology for their identified freight projects. Freight planning has seen an increase in importance and emphasis from the federal govern- ment. In times when the freight industry has been drastically increasing, the federal govern- ment has placed extensive requirements on state DOTs to prioritize their freight investments, without providing a homogeneous methodology to be implemented across DOTs, MPOs, local entities, and other transportation-related organizations. This project sought to fill that gap by assessing all the existing methodologies and compiling a comprehensive overview of freight project prioritization. International Examples of Freight Prioritization Consideration of the scope of international practice for freight prioritization was required as part of the study approach. This section includes requirements for international practice as well as existing literature on prioritization processes. Although it was important to understand freight prioritization practices internationally to determine similarities and lessons learned, it was not the primary focus of the study. Thus, this section does not include an in-depth analysis such as the one found in the U.S. section. A paragraph linking international and U.S. freight methods is included at the end of this section. Requirements and Freight Prioritization for the European Union Legislation in the European Union (EU) has pushed for a single European market since the 1980s, focusing the trend on facilitating cross-border movement in freight. Since demand for transport is expected to grow by 80% by 2050, the EU continues to face challenges to meet this demand (8). Cross-border barriers and integration of national markets is another challenge because transportation infrastructure is unequally developed across many European countries. European networks are especially difficult to plan for since many of the issues related to groups of projects that are related or are in a segment of transport corridor/network are located in different countries. Projects in different countries can typically have competing interests and scarce resources, making the prioritization process difficult. Tsamboulas (9) has devel- oped a tool for prioritizing multinational transport infrastructure investments despite the lack of research background on multinational transport projects, using the multi-attribute utility theory. This theory uses sufficient but limited criteria reflecting the transport policy priorities of the countries concerned and the available financial resources (8). Multi-attribute utility theory is applied to prioritize transport projects in a multinational transport network of 21 countries that are members of the Trans-European Motorway and Trans-European Railway networks in the EU (8). An important component of the method is to ensure that goals and priorities are established at the governmental level for the stakeholders. The goals and priorities constitute an integral part of the projects under evaluation and implementation (8).

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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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