Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
Federal Highway Administration
Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
100 CambridgePark Drive, Suite 400
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140
August 31, 2005
Key Issues and Next Steps in Addressing Freight within Transportation Planning Programs
Long Range Planning, Key Issues
Potential Next Steps
Engaging the Private Sector Freight Community, Key Issues
Potential Next Steps
Use of Data and Analytical Tools, Key Issues
Organizing to Facilitate Freight Planning, Key Issues
Potential Next Steps
Multi-Jurisdictional Planning, Key Issues
Potential Next Steps
Both the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA, enacted 1991) and the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21, enacted 1998) encouraged states and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to consider freight movements and issues during statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes. Freight was included among the planning factors in TEA 21, which helped focus Federal, state, and MPO attention on freight issues. There is a growing awareness at the Federal, state, metropolitan, and local levels of the importance of freight transportation and a corresponding push to link transportation investment, especially freight transportation investment, to economic development. As a result, Federal transportation agencies, state DOTs, MPOs, and business leaders are recognizing that effective freight movement is important to economic competitiveness and to the overall health and efficiency of the transportation system.
In response to these and other influences, many states and MPOs have developed successful freight planning programs and activities, which take different forms. Many states and MPOs address freight issues generally as part of their long range planning efforts. Some take a more active approach by building statewide or metropolitan pictures of freight movement through the development of stand alone, integrated, multimodal freight plans. Still others have begun to develop analytical tools or freight data collection programs to develop freight performance measures or to help guide freight policy and transportation investment decisions.
While several states and MPOs have developed successful, continuous freight planning programs, there are still several common issues and obstacles that state DOT and MPO staff have had to address to more fully incorporate freight interests into their transportation planning programs. Although many planning agencies have made commendable efforts to overcome such obstacles through their own efforts, resources, data, organizational issues, and multimodal and multijurisdictional planning issues can often provide significant challenges. Both the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have provided resources to state DOT and MPO freight planning practitioners to assist them in addressing many of these challenges. These efforts, which consist of training courses, workshops, guidebooks, and other resources, have effectively raised the profile of freight among state DOTs, MPOs, and other transportation planning agencies; provided practitioners with the resources and motivation to better incorporate freight into their transportation planning programs; emphasized the incorporation of freight issues into long range planning activities; highlighted the importance of engaging the private sector freight industry in the transportation planning process; and provided instruction on the identification and utilization of freight data and analytical tools to facilitate freight planning.
While these various training and capacity-building opportunities provide a critical piece of an overall freight professional development program, there is no substitute for peer-to-peer information exchange activities to take the general knowledge obtained from these training courses and workshops and put specific freight-related strategies and programs into practice. States and MPOs looking to develop and implement specific freight planning activities can benefit tremendously from understanding lessons learned and critical success factors from colleagues that have already undertaken similar endeavors. This Freight Planning Capacity Building Workshop provided an opportunity for veterans of freight planning to share critical lessons learned with those that may be new to freight planning.
This Freight Planning Capacity Building Workshop was co-sponsored by FHWA and AASHTO and had three specific objectives:
The workshop was held in conjunction with the AASHTO 2005 Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Subcommittee on Systems Operations and Management Meeting on June 5 though June 9 in Overland Park, Kansas and was attended by 21 state DOT and MPO representatives. A complete list of participants and the meeting agenda is included in Appendix A.
In order to meet the workshop objectives and to provide structure to group discussions, the topic of freight planning was broken up into five elements. Freight professionals from around the country with expertise in these areas were invited to present "best practices" presentations on each topic. After each presentation, key discussion questions were offered as a starting point for dialogue. The five freight planning elements and associated discussion questions were as follows:
Incorporating Freight into Long-Range Plans. The long-range planning process lays the groundwork for how a state incorporates freight interests and issues into its planning program. Key discussion questions associated with this element included:
Engaging the Private Sector Freight Community. The private sector freight community can provide the background and expertise necessary to guide a successful statewide or metropolitan freight planning program. Key discussion questions associated with this element included:
Effective Use of Freight Data and Analytical Tools. Freight data, analytical tools, and forecasting methods are important inputs to a statewide or metropolitan freight planning process. Key discussion questions associated with this element included:
Organizing to Facilitate Freight Planning. The way in which freight planning is organized within state DOTs or MPOs can also affect the success of a statewide or metropolitan freight planning program. Key discussion questions associated with this element included:
Multijurisdictional Coordination. Freight movements are increasingly regional, national, and global in nature, often crossing traditional jurisdictional boundaries. Successful freight planning programs require a high degree of coordination with state agencies, other levels of government, and other state DOTs or MPOs through cooperative planning activities or multijurisdictional coalitions. Key discussion questions associated with this element included:
The following sections provide a summary of the presentations and discussions in each of these categories. The full suite of presentations (as presented) is provided in Appendix B. (Not available online.)
To offer the group some background on recent activities and initiatives on freight planning, Tony Furst (of FHWA's Office of Freight Management and Operations) summarized the findings from the AASHTO/FHWA Freight Partnership Meeting held in Columbus, Ohio on April 25-27, 2005. The meeting was convened as part of an effort to discuss the concept of a state freight coordinator. Specifically, the attendees discussed the roles, skills, and resources that would be associated with that position and the related organizational and institutional issues that exist. In addition to the Columbus meeting where 37 states were represented, the effort included a survey and additional WebEx events. Representatives from state DOTs and FHWA division offices were included in the effort.
General findings from the Columbus meeting include:
The findings of the Columbus meeting were relevant to the workshop in the following ways:
Following this presentation, participants engaged in a conversation regarding statewide and metropolitan freight planning, its current role in the national context, and the skills required of an effective freight planner.
One participant pointed out that the "freight industry" is very difficult to identify and define. Instead, the freight community is made up of many different players with a range of personal interests. This makes it difficult to identify a group of players who can sit down and make a decision. More so than in other transportation industries, the private sector plays an integral role and needs to be included in decision-making activities. It is quite possible that the field and industry are even more complex than even the best freight professionals have realized.
A number of participants expressed an opinion that in addition to its complexity, freight as an issue has never gained prominence. Until it gets attention similar to that of the pedestrian and bicycle realm, it is unlikely that the field of freight planning will advance significantly.
Generally, participants agreed that an effective statewide freight coordinator needs to have strong communication, interpersonal, and analytical skills. An ideal candidate would also have industry knowledge and the ability to step back and look at the big picture. On a regular basis, a statewide freight coordinator must be able to work adroitly with politicians and private sector freight professionals while communicating the importance of freight to the public.
Suzann Rhodes, of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), gave a presentation to the group about how her agency incorporated freight into their long-range plan (LRP). Their approach was to make freight more understandable to the general public by weaving the needs throughout the LRP and relating them to issues that people can identify with.
ODOT entered the LRP process with the perspective that freight transportation is integrally related to all transportation; effective freight planning cannot be completed separately. Therefore, freight planning is integrated throughout the LRP, and does not have a designated chapter. Recommendations pertaining to freight are listed among other related planning topics. This approach brings freight into the spotlight with all other types of transportation, and helps to show the public how freight is related to conditions they face in their lives on a daily basis. For example, Chapter 1 sets the stage by linking transportation to the economy, and effectively makes the case that if the transportation system can be more efficient, things will cost less. Throughout the demographic analyses, freight growth projections are always compared to passenger travel growth. By explaining that without rail, the State would have five million more trucks on the road, the general public can appreciate the importance and impact of a functional rail system. All established goals were translated into clear and simple performance measures that can be used to demonstrate accountability.
The LRP process and freight profile led to a number of important policy initiatives. For example, a truck density map analysis led to a change in tolling policy to encourage trucks to utilize roadways with additional capacity. The profile also revealed that air is the fastest growing freight mode in the state, which prompted the DOT to more actively work with airports. A need to improve freight access to ports was also identified through the process.
The presentation was followed by a discussion. Workshop participants were interested to hear more specifically about how ODOT had managed to "mainstream" freight planning, and introduce public involvement into the process. Ms. Rhodes responded that the freight profile has been instrumental in addressing needs on a local, regional, and even national level. It has helped to illuminate the fact that freight often moves through the state, but does not enter into the economy through sales or the creation of jobs. The DOT Director can take these conditions to the Federal government when appealing for funds. On a statewide level, the DOT has taken the position that the transportation network is not simply a highway system; investing in rail and removing chokepoints can relieve congestion on the highways and improve air quality and reduce maintenance costs, etc. On the local level, the stakeholder survey was instrumental in informing the DOT about the user's concerns, which were surprisingly consistent. This provided insightful information about how to focus resources, and how to engage the public in the process.
Workshop participants from other states and MPOs shared their experiences with freight planning integration. The common experience has been a strong realization about the significance of freight on the daily lives of residents and operations of the transportation network. Each agency stated the importance of communicating this connection to constituents. In Minnesota, the creation of a freight advisory committee provided a strong connection between top management and freight industry representatives. In addition, putting together a freight profile helped to educate DOT staff and therefore to push the agenda on the importance of freight planning. METROPLAN ORLANDO, a Florida MPO, created a freight committee to address concerns related to projected growth and deteriorating infrastructure. The realization that the movement of goods and the provision of services to residents was threatened moved the issue to the forefront. In Vermont, freight planning took hold when higher level officials recognized the importance to the economy. As in Ohio, explaining to people that access to fresh tomatoes in January is a direct result of the freight industry has been key to leveraging the needed support. A Vermont freight plan is now complete, and the next step will be to integrate it into the long-range plan.
Gerald Rawling, Director of Operations for the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS), gave a presentation on the task of "Engaging" the Private Sector in freight planning activities. He began by stating that in the transportation world, freight typically sits behind personal transport and public transit in terms of importance to the general public. An additional challenge exists in finding the appropriate people to fill freight planning positions. Mr. Rawling presented the group with the diagram shown as Figure 1, underscoring the multidisciplinary nature of the field and the range of skills and experiences needed to successfully complete freight planning capacity building.
Around the outside of these disciplines sit marketing and market research; two key aspects in regards to successfully engaging the private sector.
The private sector can be considered analogous to the broader general public that should be involved in freight planning. Therefore, difficulty garnering private sector support can be generalized as difficulty in generating public interest and involvement. CATS spends $750,000 annually on public involvement initiatives, and only receives input from a few hundred people. Mr. Rawling argued that the best approach is to go out to the private sector and see what they are engaged in and what they are handling on a daily basis.
CATS has established the Intermodal Advisory Task Force (IATF). The mission of this group is:
The IATF operates with an understanding that freight is an integral part of a robust economy and deserves a fair allocation of time and resources. Just because "freight doesn't vote" does not mean that it is not important. Finally, the group understands that "talk is not cheap, it's bloody expensive," allowing them to stay focused on the important issues.
CATS has found this to be an effective way of engaging the players, exchanging information, and creating a forum to communicate with the public. Through working together, the group has found that a successful task force should promote an atmosphere of scientific inquiry and put knowledge in play as often as possible. In addition, members have to feel comfortable speaking honestly and openly if anything is to be accomplished. The CATS staff offers the task force with their analysis as a place to start. From there, the task force has been successful at taking that analysis and generating innovative ideas and approaches to challenges. For instance, the IATF has embraced the notion of "pushing the envelope" through a work in progress called C4T (CREATE for Trucks). This initiative will ascertain if the procedural steps of the railroads' CREATE (Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency) program could be replicated for the trucking industry. Mr. Rawling further stated that the IATF has recognized the applicability of C4T since all states and MPOs will have some trucking issues, whereas not all will have rail, water, or intermodal issues. The IATF has found their website to be a useful tool for information sharing, and increasing the "buzz" about the topic. More information about the IATF can be found on the web site: www.catsiatf.com.
Mr. Rawling emphasized the importance of "knowing the business." Those in the private sector will respect public sector officials if they know that you have made an effort to take the time to learn about their issues, needs, and concerns. He also advocates for treating private sector representatives as a "board of directors." Working with them as the experts will create a dynamic where they will be interested in sharing their knowledge and experience. In addition, being transparent and objective can build trust, teamwork, and efficiencies. Pulling in a range of people with different perspectives and interests can be helpful. In the case of the IATF, it has established working relationships with local universities, including "teamingq on studies in advanced technologies and cargo-handling methods. Finally, a willingness to throw out new and non-traditional ideas is key to creating dialogue, brainstorming, and generating creative, thoughtful, and feasible alternatives.
Participants had a number of questions and insightful comments regarding their own experience with engaging the private sector. Tony Furst observed that to succeed in accomplishing the five key points mentioned above is very labor-intensive. Gerald Rawling agreed, from experience.
Successful participation can often require more than simply inviting people to a meeting. As Mr. Rawling suggested, the best tactic may be to reach out to stakeholders, and meet them on their site to show interest in their issues. Another successful approach is to establish a formal process-oriented project (e.g., creating a freight plan) that stakeholders will view as relevant. At times, just creating a forum for private sector players to discuss common issues can be enough of an incentive; some states have found that these entities are not talking to each other on their own and welcome a formal opportunity to do so. Once the initial interest is shown, it is important to treat stakeholders as official business partners with something valuable to share. To establish a good working relationship, it can be effective to begin with the "low-hanging fruit" to accomplish something quickly that everyone can support. Perhaps most importantly, people should feel that the time they spend is well utilized. Offering some practical or technical assistance and guidance can be a good tool to allow private sector representatives to feel that they are getting something of value in exchange for participation. As a final thought, Leo Penne commented that, if the necessary public-private cooperation does not materialize the freight industry will be the eventual loser as the public sector will impose further limitations on conditions of freight service (e.g., times and places).
Dennis Hooker, of METROPLAN ORLANDO, described the MPO's experience with the collection and use of freight data. Since the completion of the interstate, there has been a shift in the transportation industry from infrastructure building to system maintenance. Data collection and analysis is an integral piece to maintaining and utilizing the system efficiently. METROPLAN ORLANDO's freight data collection process began with the realization that the required data did not exist at the local level. Commodity flows are available on a more aggregate level, but often are not useful for looking specifically at local freight movement. Much of the existing freight data are incompatible, making it difficult or impossible to analyze. It is up to DOTs, MPOs, and other transportation agencies to find the resources to gather this data.
The MPO followed a process similar to that established for a statewide LRTP, and went through exercises to determine what data should be collected. METROPLAN ORLANDO currently has sufficient data to track commodity flows (and not just the movement of vehicles) on the local level. This data has given freight planners the tools to determine what goods are being delivered where and when. As a result, weigh stations have been set up strategically on the outskirts of the city to allow truck drivers to wait until congestion has subsided. In addition, mini-distribution centers have been established to accept large deliveries at night. During the day, smaller vehicles can make the deliveries throughout the central business district when people are there to receive the goods.
Due to time constraints, there was no specific discussion following this presentation.
Cecil Selness, Director of the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, addressed the topic of organizational structure for effective freight planning. He shared some general thoughts on organizational structure, in addition to speaking specifically about his experience and how Mn/DOT has organized effectively.
Mr. Selness compared an organization to a poker hand; no matter how you arrange the cards, if you don't have good cards (people) you will not have a winning hand. If you have strong cards you can arrange them to win. Good people properly organized can successfully relate and work together. Indeed, the interpersonal relationships among employees within an organization are more valuable than how those people are arranged on a chart, or where the "power" is allocated on paper. It is also important to remember that an organization needs to change, and one structure will not remain effective throughout all situations and when addressing all challenges. Mr. Selness also argued that while you can't win solely on the basis of good organization, you can lose if it is not properly executed.
Speaking specifically about Mn/DOT, Mr. Selness mentioned that the Commissioner of Transportation is also the Lieutenant Governor. In addition, she has firsthand knowledge of both business and freight. The six division directors of Mn/DOT serve as the board of directors for the organization. Top-level understanding and support of freight really helps the freight program be successful. The state agency approaches its work with the theory that transportation is much more than the DOT. Counties, cities, railroads, MPOs, transit operators, etc. all play a very important role. Each one brings a unique perspective to the table, and is important in a different way. By involving all of the players specifically in freight planning activities, Mn/DOT can honestly say that it is more than simply the DOT's plan and involves input from many groups.
Originally, freight and commercial vehicle operations (CVO) were housed in separate Offices. When the two offices were merged, there was some initial worry about combining a planning organization (office of freight) with a regulatory organization (CVO). However, it has worked out extremely well. Mr. Selness feels that if freight planning was housed within the general transportation section, the deep knowledge of the freight industry would be lost. The two groups have been able to share information and perspectives that make the most of the variety of skill sets now housed within one office.
The Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations oversees freight, rail, waterways, and motor carriers. All plans being done within Mn/DOT are performance based, including the recently completed freight plan. The freight landscape has many players, and combining these groups has helped to highlight the connection between freight planning and economic development. Research funding plays a key role in funding the freight planning effort. Mn/DOT has begun doing highway corridor studies to identify good freight projects for development. However, the agency still struggles with the issue of spending highway dollars on non-highway projects. Although Mn/DOT receives general, non-dedicated funds for rail and waterway programs, it is still difficult at times to figure out how to coordinate the funding streams.
In response to participant questions, Mr. Selness pointed out that the purpose of good organization is to create an environment where progress can be made that benefits all players. Looking down the road 20 years, he would like to see agencies on local, regional, state, and multi-state levels addressing freight issues in a collaborative context where public and private entities can sit together and maintain integrity. If this is to be achieved, it will not come down to organization but instead will be based on funding and relations.
John Powers, Intermodal Specialist from New Jersey Department of Transportation, gave a presentation on the topic of Multijurisdictional Coordination based on his experience and involvement with the Mid-Atlantic Railroad Operations Study (MAROps). This project has brought together five states (PA, NJ, MD, DE, and VA), three railroads (CSX, NS, and Amtrak), and the I 95 Corridor Coalition to identify chokepoints and challenges facing railroads in the Mid-Atlantic region. Each state has been working independently to address some of the challenges it is facing specifically, but the power of MAROps lies in the ability to look along the rail corridors and understand how issues and improvements in one state can drastically impact another state. When the problems are brought to one table, it is clear that many states are facing the same or related problems. The MAROps forum broke down many of the barriers that had existed previously among the states and the Class I railroads. Addressing the challenges together provides potential cost savings and offers new solutions through collaboration. The MAROps partnership provided this framework, which otherwise would not have existed. Along with a myriad of benefits, different agency cultures and disagreements about how efforts should be funded are the two main challenges that the MAROps team has faced.
Through statewide collaboration and discussion, it became apparent that there are a number of critical rail projects throughout the corridor that would offer substantial benefits to multiple stakeholders. During the course of Phase I, a cost/benefit analysis was completed that shows how investments could benefit the region as a whole. A plan was put together with a list of specific projects which, if completed, would benefit the region over the next 20 years. This plan would not expand the system, but instead simply improve the existing corridors. However, the cost and benefits have yet to be broken down by state or network portion. This piece will be completed during Phase II of MAROps.
Even if these benefits were identified and the involved parties agreed to fund the project at a level relevant to the expected return on investment, there is no current mechanism to pool funds from different sources and apply it to one project. Therefore, one of the most important outcomes of MAROps Phase I has been to identify the need for such a mechanism. An ideal entity would be a regional funding organization, able to float bonds and generate revenue with contracting authority to fund and manage regional infrastructure projects. In addition, the group would also be able to lobby competently on Capitol Hill.
Although both the I 95 Corridor Coalition and the Conference on Northeast Governors (CONEG) have been identified as logical players for this function, both agencies still have their limitations. While the I 95 Corridor Coalition can act as the funding mechanism, it is precluded from lobbying. CONEG has experience lobbying, but does not represent the specific players. However, now that this issue has been identified, progress is being made toward finding a solution.
Workshop participants discussed the fact that the lack of a funding mechanism is an example of the need for a national transportation policy. If transportation was thought of on a national level context, the existing barrier for how to fund regional projects would not be an issue. At the moment, there is nothing that prohibits transportation planning across state lines, but there is nothing that rewards or promotes it either. One participant pointed out that if Federal resources could be used for regional projects before they became state resources, the channeling of the funds would be less of an issue. Another participant argued that even if the money was allocated on the regional level, there would still be arguments about which regions were receiving funding, and how much. There are serious barriers to this sort of cross-state funding; states or regions will continue to say that there is not enough money to keeps things going internally, so they will not want to fund things in other states. Until there is a shift in how leadership approaches this, it will be challenging to change.
The experiences shared during the course of this Freight Planning Capacity Building Workshop indicate that many states and MPOs have developed innovative approaches and techniques in conducting freight planning activities. Significant challenges still exist, though, and there are many ways by which freight issues could be more effectively mainstreamed within existing statewide and metropolitan transportation planning programs. The key issues and next steps presented in this section are based on the best practices presentations and ensuing discussion at the Workshop and are organized around the five elements of freight planning presented earlier. These next steps should not be considered hard-and-fast recommendations. Rather, they are designed to raise issues and approaches for consideration by AASHTO, FHWA, or other organizations, in developing programs, strategies, or initiatives designed to improve the ability of DOTs, MPOs, or other transportation planning staff to incorporate freight into the transportation planning processes.
Statewide Planning and Policy Analysis
Florida Department of Transportation
605 Suwannee Street, MS 28
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Manager of Technical Services
One Landmark Center
315 East Robinson Street, Suite 355
Orlando, FL 32801
Office of Planning and Programming
Illinois Department of Transportation
2300 South Dirksen Parkway, Room 300
Springfield, IL 62764
Director of Operations Analysis
Chicago Area Transportation Study
300 West Adams Street, Second Floor
Chicago, IL 60600
Transportation Engineering Branch Manager
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
200 Mero Street
Frankfurt, KY 40622
Freight Policy Specialist
Michigan Department of Transportation
Van Wagoner Building
425 W. Ottawa Street
P.O. Box 30050
Lansing, MI 48909
Director, Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations
Minnesota Department of Transportation
395 John Ireland Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155
Minnesota Department of Transportation
395 John Ireland Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155
Mears Park Center
230 E 5th St.
St. Paul, MN 55101
New Jersey Department of Transportation
1035 Parkway Avenue, CN 600
P.O. Box 600
Trenton, NJ 08625
New York State Department of Transportation
50 Wolf Road
Albany, NY 12232
Administrator, Office of Urban Corridor Planning
Ohio Department of Transportation
1980 West Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43223
Project Manager - Transportation Planning
Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments
300 Central Union Plaza
Toledo, OH 43697
Director of Policy and Planning
Vermont Agency of Transportation
State Administration Building
133 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633
Virginia Department of Transportation
1401 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Office of Management and Operations
Federal Highway Administration
HOFM-1, Room 3401
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
Intermodal and Industry Activities
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 249
Washington, DC 20001
Planning Capacity Building Team Leader
Federal Highway Administration
1634 I Street NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20590