Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
Planning · Environment · Real Estate

HEP Events Guidance Publications Glossary Awards Contacts

Talking Freight

AASHTO-FHWA Freight Partnership Findings and Discussion

April 18, 2007 Talking Freight

Jennifer Symoun:
Welcome to the Talking Freight Seminar Series. My name is Jennifer Symoun and I will moderate today's seminar. Today's topic is AASHTO-FHWA Freight Partnership Findings and Discussions. Please be advised that today's seminar is being recorded.

Today we'll have three presenters. Tony Furst of the FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations, Butch Brown of the Mississippi DOT, and Leo Penne of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Tony Furst is Director, Office of Freight Management and Operations. He directs a multi-level staff, which develops freight policy for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); provides data analysis and decision-support tools for transportation professionals evaluating freight projects; develops and promulgates professional capacity building programs and training for freight professionals; provides the truck size and weight program guidance and interpretation; and evaluates and promotes freight technology development for national and international deployment.

Prior to joining the FHWA, Mr. Furst held a range of positions in the Department of Transportation with the Maritime Administration as a program coordinator, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation's Office of Intermodalism as a regional coordinator for intermodal projects in the Northeastern States and California, and the Transportation Security Administration as the Branch Chief of the Maritime Infrastructure Security Branch in the Maritime and Land Security Directorate.

Larry L. "Butch" Brown Sr., of Natchez, Miss., is a longtime businessman and the former mayor of the City of Natchez from 1992-2000. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with degrees in management and marketing, Mr. Brown previously served as an instructor at USM before continuing his business ventures in the areas of transportation, warehousing, real estate, wholesaling, and the hotel trade. He was selected to be the Executive Director for the Mississippi Department of Transportation in 2001.

He has served on the Executive Board of Directors of the Mississippi Business Finance Corporation, White House Conference on Small Business, the US Department of Commerce-Industry Sector Advisory Committee on Trade Policy, and was a member and former chairman of the Mississippi Louisiana Bridge Authority. Brown currently serves on the AASHTO Finance Committee, State Planning Committee, and SCOWT Committee. In January of 2005, he was also appointed to a three-year term on the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board which is a division of the National Academies Society. Currently he serves as Chairman of the Latin American Trade and Transportation Study.

Awards received by Mr. Brown include the Governor's Golden Glove; the Mississippi Volunteer of the Year Laureate; the 1996 and 2000 NLC City Cultural Diversity Award; INC. Magazine's INC. 500 Award, which recognizes the fastest growing privately held corporations in America; and during Brown's service as mayor, Natchez received several times the Most Livable Community Award given by the Mississippi Municipal Association.

R. Leo Penne is Program Director for Intermodal Activities with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). He is responsible for issues involving freight transportation by all modes--rail, truck, aviation, ports and waterways-and for liaison with industries having significant interests in freight movement and transportation infrastructure.

He shares the responsibility for developing and communicating the case for the economic benefits of transportation and for demonstrating the linkage between transportation and economic development.

Previously, Mr. Penne held the following positions: Director, State of Nevada Washington, D.C. Office; Program Director for Housing, Community and Economic Development, Public Technology Inc.; Director, Office of Policy Analysis and Development, Economic Development Administration, US Department of Commerce; Senior Legislative Counsel and Assistant Director of the Office of Policy Analysis, National League of Cities; and, President, R. Leo Penne Associates, Inc.

Mr. Penne coordinated and directed Nevada's Washington, D.C. strategy focused on transportation, tourism and economic development. He initiated and chaired for eight years the Transportation Working Group of the Governors' Washington representatives, which supported the advocacy of governors for increased transportation investment, and for the ISTEA and TEA21 authorizations.

Mr. Penne developed and carried out programs for advocacy, policy development and research in areas such as transportation, economic development, urban development, environmental protection, public finance, training and tourism and has written and edited books, reports and articles on these subjects.

He is the principal writer of The Economics of Amenity: Community Futures and Quality of Life-A Policy Guide to Urban Economic Development and the editor of a companion case study book. Other publications include a guidebook for the National League of Cities on collaboration between city governments and community-based organizations and a book on interjurisdictional cooperation in metropolitan regions for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which Mr. Penne edited.

Mr. Penne holds degrees in political science from Seattle University and the University of Washington and has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

I'd now like to go over a few logistical details prior to starting the seminar. Today's seminar will last 90 minutes, with 60 minutes allocated for the speakers, and the final 30 minutes for audience Question and Answer. If during the presentations you think of a question, you can type it into the smaller text box underneath the chat area on the lower right side of your screen. Please make sure you are typing in the thin text box and not the large white area. Please also make sure you send your question to "Everyone" and indicate which presenter your question is for. Presenters will be unable to answer your questions during their presentations, but I will start off the question and answer session with the questions typed into the chat box. Once we get through all of the questions that have been typed in, the Operator will give you instructions on how to ask a question over the phone. If you think of a question after the seminar, you can send it to the presenters directly, or I encourage you to use the Freight Planning LISTSERV. The LISTSERV is an email list and is a great forum for the distribution of information and a place where you can post questions to find out what other subscribers have learned in the area of Freight Planning. If you have not already joined the LISTSERV, the web address at which you can register is provided on the slide on your screen.

Finally, I would like to remind you that this session is being recorded. A file containing the audio and the visual portion of this seminar will be posted to the Talking Freight Web site within the next week. We encourage you to direct others in your office that may have not been able to attend this seminar to access the recorded seminar.

The PowerPoint presentations used during the seminar will also be available within the next week. I will notify all attendees of the availability of the PowerPoints, the recording, and a transcript of this seminar.

We're now going to go ahead and get started. Today's topic, for those of you who just joined us, is AASHTO-FHWA Freight Partnership Findings and Discussions. Our first presentation will be given by Tony Furst of the FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations. As a reminder, if you have questions for Tony please type them into the chat box and they will be answered in the last 30 minutes of the seminar. With that, Tony, I will bring up your presentation. Let me and large it and I will turn it over to you. Tony, you can go ahead.

Tony Furst:
Thank you, Jennifer. We are endeavoring to do this over the Web. We have microphones, telephones and computers sitting on one platform here. Hopefully it will work and you will not get any feedback.

In February 2007 we held the Freight Partnership II meeting. This was a follow up on the meeting that we had in April of 2005. The meeting was held in Natchez, Mississippi thanks to Butch's hospitality. You can see that we had over 100 participants. What was valuable to us and those assembled there was the sense of community and sense of networking. There was a lot of on-line discussions during the meeting itself. An awful lot of activity took place during break out sessions and after hours when we had a host of events that Butch helped put together. It was wonderful to see a broad range of people collaborating and working on issues that were very important to them.

Before we held the actual meeting, we did a survey where we got together some ideas on what we would present compared to the 2005 material that we put together in Columbus, Ohio. The responses that you see here is pretty remarkable for surveys, if you think about it. This is a 90% rating on most of them. As we go forward with another one of these, probably in '08, we hope to have the MPOs more represented.

We will go through the purpose of the meeting and see what the survey told us and what we got at the meeting. Here are the survey findings. How high of a priority is freight transportation in your organization? The differences between '05 and 06/07 are striking. We had the greatest advance in that regard. It is a quadrupling of their interest and prioritization of freight within their Division Offices, which for me is a very important to move forward. We did not service the MPOs and '05. And in '06, there is a distinct participation and what their agencies think. The survey findings were also kind of interesting in what FHWA thought were high priority issues in their respective states. When it talks about commercial vehicles, it is size and weight issues and other commercial vehicle issues, all of the issues basically. When you see rail listed it is really a capacity issue and same with the water and ports. Is the freight movement system going to be able to handle the freight that we see going forward. They are talking about all modes, not just the highway mode. For commercial vehicles, it was the same as it was for the state. All of the truck parking issues and truck volume issues.

When we talk to the MPOs and regional councils, there was an awful lot of compatibility for what we saw in the FHWA offices. Again, the commercial vehicles were front and center for some of their concerns. They also talked about truck routes and the infrastructure in order to be able to handle truck sizes, particularly the 53 footers. When they talk about infrastructure on the left-hand side, they are talking mostly about maintenance issues. When we have these items listed, we asked them to amplifying information. What I am giving you is the amplifying information. They are definitely thinking about all modes of activity.

When we were in Mississippi, we asked the administrators, we had a number of them there, about what their major concerns were. Growth and freight volumes mirror what we have been able to put together within the FHWA and DOT. There are large volumes of freight moving through the system and that goes with the ability of the system to be able to handle that. We are cognizant of the globalization and the changing that we have in front of us and the concern about fuel and environmental issues. The multi-jurisdictional efforts were a concern of theirs. They felt that all of this is very dynamic and will not play out in individual issues. You can talk about all of these individually if you want to. What they brought forward is that they all need to be looked at simultaneously, which is an awful lot on anyone's plate. None of these will play out in isolation. They all need to be dealt with together.

When we actually got to the meeting, after we did the survey, we listened to the private sector talk about their concerns. We talked to a number of the people about what they thought some of the resolutions should they. These are the things that came out of depth. We need to talk about it as a systems perspective. We need to develop a multi modal infrastructure. There is a lot of constraints that go along with that including jurisdictions, planning, the whole 9 yards. We really need to think about ways to put this together. The more times you try to get multiple people together to come to a consensus, you start to escalate by cubes the complexity of the situation. There needs to be a defining point where we get as many people as we can to the table with open the doors and make it possible to coordinate everyone's activities. That it becomes a solution that we can reach.

The other piece that became clear is education, not just the staff, but also the political leaders and general population. What you will see when we get to the very end, a lot of these activities regarding educating the political leaders and the general population is an area that we need to think about moving forward. Again, we had survey findings on freight leadership, basically, that paragraph on the left-hand side. It has been called a freight champion in our circles. We had a discussion about that in Columbus and Mississippi. The concept of what a freight champion is is evolving. We thought it would be a political leader that had the horsepower to make it happen. Through a number of discussions, exactly what a freight champion ends up being is evolving. It can be within a state DOT that actively supports and moves forward with the idea that freight should be considered and puts the horsepower behind it.

Does the leadership in your organization recognize the importance of freight? It is great to see how many here at FHWA think so. When I saw this slide, they changed it to MPOs, we double checked the data and this reflects almost 1 to 1 on how important they think freight is. The leadership and recognition for freight as an important activity within their region or locality. When we were at the meeting, we had a discussion on freight champions. The idea of a freight champion, and the role is changing considerably. Richard Nordahl from the California State DOT walked us through a review of exactly what constitutes a freight champion, and the attributes and qualities. It was determined that a champion can establish an institutional capacity and enables people who have an interest in freight to work together to help solve problems.

We started talking about freight planning and exactly what was going on in freight planning in the different locations. These were the survey findings from the regional responses and MPOs. Over half of the MPOs have a long-range plan. 64% of the MPOs were unable to move more than half of their freight projects on to implementation. They identified the following barriers, limited funding and the sporadic freight industry involvement. You will see this come about later when we start talking about where we are with freight involvement and the needs of that. Some of it had to do with engaging the private sector and improving that course and getting it out to more people so that we can turn sporadic freight involvement to retained and concentrated freight involvement. When we got to freight planning, the same themes that you heard regarding the issues came forward regarding freight as a multi jurisdictional issues.

Funding as you saw earlier was an issue. I know the Department is pushing heavily on the idea of private sector involvement and the idea of bringing private sector involvement into the planning. It is something that we will look forward to developing within FHWA and getting that out as quickly as we can. We have already started work on putting that together. Then, we talk about the national freight policy and what people could do within the national freight policy to support it.

As background, the national freight policy is a national policy. It is not federal. It is to be collaborative with all the players that are involved in freight transportation. Everyone needs to be involved and coming up with solutions for freight movement around the country. It is evolving. The ownership component, if you propose an activity at the bottom, the responsibility is to drive the national freight policy. When you propose it, you own it and you are taking activity to improve the tactics or strategy that gets us to the objectives. These are the seven objectives that are part of the national freight policy. How do we accomplish these different policy objectives? That is where we get to questionable items that help us advance any number of these objectives. When we did the survey regarding the national freight policy, a lot of the MPOs and a lot of the FHWA division offices as well were not aware of the freight policy framework. 66% said that they were not planning on implementing any activities.

I've highlighted part of the policy framework. There is an awful lot of activity around the country around the freight policy framework. When we got to the partnership meeting and held a workshop on the national freight policy. We organized all of the people by regions. We put the FHWA Division Office, the state DOT, the MPO together to talk about how their activities would support the national freight policy. We put a number of states together so that they could get a better understanding about how things were going. They collectively identified all of the things that you see here. There were new activities to the freight policy, not necessarily new policies to what they were doing in their respective organizations. These are a lot of the common tactics that came out of the work that we did. As you can see here, establish a program for long-term truck parking facilities along the NHS. This came from a lot of the people present. It is a discretionary program. We got it out of Section 1305. We had a solicitation for proposals in '06. There is one available for fiscal year '07. It is identified as a priority issue. When we asked people what issues they face in the next 5 to 10 years, obviously commercial motor vehicles was one. Not only do they identify it as a priority, but a number of them were taking it as a priority issue for them. You can look through the rest of the list and see some of the other activities that people have proposed. It was a very good discussion within the respective groups on what was going on.

The last one that I wanted to mention was 4.1.2 - review public sector statutes, regulations, institutional arrangements and human capital for opportunities to improve freight operations. This is the converse of the way it reads in the national freight policy. We talked about removing some of the impediments to advancing the ideas. This put a completely different spin on it. What can we do to improve freight instead of removing impediments, what can be put in place to accelerate or advance. We can talk about revising that objective within the national freight policy.

We continue to talk about these as a number of discussion items. The word is not getting out as efficiently as we would like. We might have to think about ways of marketing the freight policy better than we are currently doing. Address funding in the policy. A lot of this, John Horsley mentioned this quite a bit in his presentation remarks for AASHTO. If you look at what is being proposed now with their critical commercial corridors, that could be a strategy or tactics that you could stick underneath the objective of adding physical capacity. You can include the funding part of it and how you look at your strategies and tactics that you want to put forward. My thinking is you do not need to address it, but can talk about it within the strategies and tactics.

Continue to enhance the policy, work on what we are doing. We have a Web site but we are putting up a new site. It will allow you to access the strategies and tactics that other people are putting forward.

We conducted a survey on the Freight Professional Development Program. From what FHWA and the MPOs and regional councils thought was the most important pieces of that and what they would like to see move forward. Engaging the Private Sector was the top training need. Respondents also mentioned the inability to get the freight industry to the table and keep them at the table. FHWA feels they need a lot of beginner level training. I agree with that. The MPOs need to be a little further along. We talked with them a lot about what some of the training should be and what topics should be covered. We ask them what the delivery mechanism they felt would be most appropriate. They talked about in person workshops and seminars. They want the one on one contact. It helps them understand things better as opposed to a web based or CD based training programs.

We are working at FHWA to get a number of the staff within the Office of Freight Management instructor qualified. We have new course offerings rolling out at the end of this year. We need to figure out who will teach them and can we tap FHWA offices or the state DOTs to provide the instructors for these courses? When you get to this level of engagement, when you talk about state DOTs, you talk about a peer to peer exchange. It almost becomes that level of activity.

At the partnership meeting, we also talked about freight professional development. The needs were identifying the stakeholders and keep them engaged, and freight forecasting and measures, we have work coming out on financing freight improvements. We have freight forecasting course. We have the Engaging the Private Sector workshop. They can be modified and improved as needed. For the most part, where they are right now is good for the beginning level. We are always going to be evolving these courses. Freight 101 came up as a subject in every group on how we provide basic training to the elected officials and to the general public on the importance of the freight movement so they do not have the idea that trucks are the enemy and that they are there to get the goods that they need to them. We talked with them during the meeting about what the preferred delivery mechanisms are. They closely reflect what we saw in the survey. This is what they would like to see. We also talked about a number of alternative delivery mechanisms that could be available to us. We could put together a number of people to go to different freight facilities and see what is going on there and how the freight industry is moving goods. We would take a person and put them in place at any major firm so that they can get a much better understanding from that case and what the issues are facing them as they observe freight movements. An executive level freight movie where we find a way to target the elected officials through a very short executive level activity is one way. It would need to be professionally done. Also a video for the general audience. We can take action on these and tap out to the state DOTs on how to put these together.

Then, there were a number of discussion items we had regarding freight professional development. We need to better market the Freight Professional Development Program so that people understand the opportunities that currently exist. We need to start moving on to understanding freight earlier at the grade school level. It presents some opportunities. I do not want to get spread to thin, but getting to people at a young age and having them understand early on is better than having to face them later. There is the introductory course that we talked about earlier, Freight 101. Consider requiring freight training as a requirement for advancement. That needs more discussion, but is a possibility.

When we did the survey, the next steps that people recommended for FHWA was to provide training and technical assistance. We will provide support as needed and assist in the data collection efforts and developed analytical tools. At the partnership meeting, the next steps we came up with, for the national freight policy was to continue to identify strategies and tactics. All stakeholders are part of this. You have a role to play within the national freight policy. Those strategies and tactics, those of you that put together ideas and what you can do to advance the national freight policy, you would continue to work on those. All of the people that said that they would move forward with it, they will. I can tell you that FHWA is moving forward with all of the things that we committed to. We will get the national freight policy put into a database. We already have the contract for that and are working with the contractor to put together the website that will allow people to look at the database and see what the activities are within the respective areas. We are thinking about holding round tables and that we can work on within FHWA. How we would go about doing that is something that needs to be determined. We will hold follow-up meetings with the MPOs and state DOTs. We will work with that within our respective organizations and I am sure that AASHTO will also within their's. We will continue to address the developing needs that were identified and develop channels of communication and development opportunities. This is one area that we need to think about and market a little bit more professionally then we have in the past. Opportunities evolve as we move forward. We need to develop marketing materials. There is a whole host of ways that we can do this. We need to find the most appropriate mechanism to move forward. We need to provide guidance. We have provided this and will move forward as quickly as we possibly can.

That I believe, Jennifer, completes my presentation. I will turn it over to you. I believe that Butch is next.

J. Symoun:
Thank you Tony. If you have any questions for Tony, please post them into the chat area and we will get to them at the end of the seminar. Our next presentation will be given by Butch Brown, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. He will be giving some remarks over the telephone. He does not have any PowerPoint slides. I will have the presentation by Leo Penne showing up in the meantime.

Butch Brown (no PowerPoint presentation):
Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to participate. I say to go ahead and use what Tony said! We will go blindly into the dark here. I am calling in from Oklahoma, at the Standing Committee on Water Transportation annual meeting. We are still assembled here at our meeting and enjoy doing this kind of presentation as a part of the annual proceedings that are here. I will be brief. I'd like to make a few observations from the discussions about the meeting and follow up on a couple of things that Tony said.

One of the more outstanding things that came from the meeting on the freight partnership came from Senator Trent Lott. For those that do not know, he spoke to us by satellite and participated in our program for the better part of one hour. I think the thing that was overpowering and had a great deal of emphasis from him, was his new stance on intermodalism and his commitment to intermodal transportation instead of highways. For many years, Senator Lott has said that education, highways, and economic development are all joint partnerships. Nowadays, he is saying that intermodalism and education will be the factors for economic development. That is a big change and a very important change in the dialogue. Somewhere along the line, we are doing something right. To go back to something that was said earlier, indeed, Trent Lott, and I am not running his campaign, believe me, I do not think he needs my help. If there is any one champion for freight and intermodalism, today, it would be Senator Lott, and I would encourage all of you listening and participating to contact his office and thank him for his participation. It is truly genuine and very influential in our efforts.

The other thing that came from our meeting, I thought that was unique and different, and I have had a tremendous amount of feedback and comments about it were the participants from the private sector. We seem to all meet together. We talk in governmental forms, whether it be the state, the federal or the MPOs regional council or whatever. Now, we have had an opportunity to bring in the top leaders who participated on our first day of the freight conference. When you have presidents and vice presidents of the largest corporations in the world that deal in a daily manner with transportation and transportation infrastructure, it is quite enlightening to hear what they say as we sit there and develop and formulate policies for the future. I think that we certainly need to remember that they are our partners, and they played the vital most integral role in what we do. They are the stakeholders that use the system. With that said, I think we need to make sure that we keep them included in the future and in our meetings and other participatory programs. They have expressed a great deal of appreciation for having had the opportunity to participate, Tony and Leo in the for a conference and forum and look forward to doing it again. The other stakeholders that participated, I thought was a dramatic list. We had a great broad cross-section of the participants, including the private sector. We have the MPOs and the FHWA and the state DOTs. We had consultants and contractors, actually there. There was a great deal outside of our traditional way that we do business participation. I think those stakeholders all in attendance really made a difference in the outcome of that meeting. I encourage us to keep doing that.

The breakout sessions that came at the end of the conference where the groups were separated regionally, I think was also very, very beneficial in spreading the word, if you will, about what we were all about. Rather than talking to each other within of our own MPO organizations and state DOTs, we actually had the pleasure of learning from others and including their remarks into our thinking process and certainly the discussions and recommendations that followed. The attendee interaction and hospitality side of the meeting, we, in the state of Mississippi, and the DOT were proud to have been a part of it.

I'd like to cover another thing that Tony said in his remarks and that is marketing the freight policy. It is a big topic of our meeting here in Katusa yesterday. There is a woman named Leslie Blakey. She is head of the Coalition for Gateways and Corridors. She is based in Virginia. If there is anyone that has a firm grip on how to market what we do, she and her colleagues have hit upon it. She is not the only one that does or her organization is not the only one that can do what she is promoting and trying to do, but her efforts are very good and noteworthy. Marketing our freight policy nationwide and including that marketing effort and making it part of Freight 101 that Tony talked about is something we need to do. We need to become more branded and recognizable. We need to be more presentable and identifiable by the public at large. When I talk about the public at large, we need to start that public effort with our congressmen and senators and stakeholders. There are many, many people involved in transportation and freight infrastructure that do not know that we are meeting here today or having this webinar this afternoon. It ought to be on the front burner of what we are doing in selling a freight policy situation nationwide. What we are selling, what we have been selling is to ourselves. We need to start selling it to the people that are the users, whether it be the largest takeovers that we identified in our conferences and seminars, but just as importantly, to the students in our grammar and elementary schools all the way through our high schools and colleges and certainly to the marketplace in general. We need someone like Leslie, somebody to market the policy that we are working so hard to develop and implement. With that said, all in all, we certainly enjoyed having the people from all over the country, and we are pleased with the outcome. We hope that those who attended were as well. Thank you.

J. Symoun:
Thank you Mr. Brown. Our next presentation and our final presentation is going to be given by Leo Penne of AASHTO. Leo, when you are ready, please begin.

Leo Penne:
I will move along expeditiously. I will pick up on some of what Mr. Brown had just said. While he was speaking, I moved to the second slide in my PowerPoint, showing images of Natchez. The opportunity to better understand the history of that location in the context of freight transportation, and then the contemporary situation, that this was a great plus for what one could get from the event. I was thinking about what one remembers from meetings of this sort. What I think people remember and is the people and the places. I want to open up saying a little bit about both of those. First, about the place. On this slide, I have put together a couple of graphics. The map shows the location of Natchez. Many of the participants, when they left their home towns for Natchez, were not sure where it was and whether it was possible to get there and back. What the slide shows you is that is directly connected to a large part of the United States through the water system, North to the Twin cities', coming Northeast to Pittsburgh, Northwest to where our water committee is meeting at this moment in Katusa, Oklahoma., and then to the world in the lower Mississippi, to New Orleans and beyond. The large photograph, I happen to have a framed picture of that bridge in the sunset and the opportunity to get out on the lower Mississippi and to get the kind of briefing that we got on the current management of the river and the history of that and the history of the river itself, was, I thought, a very useful, not just enjoyable, but useful. In the smaller photographs below, in the center, cotton growing in the Delta. On the right, historic Natchez. On the left, the contemporary downtown.

At the meeting, both Butch Brown and Governor Barber mentioned a book, The Rising Tide by John Barry. It is a book that focuses on the flood of 1927, which was a phenomenal, catastrophic occurrence, but also relates that to the history of navigation on the river, the management of the river to the Corps of Engineers and the science of the flow of the river, the history of the cotton industry in the area, the relationship of the politics of Mississippi to Washington and the financing from overseas and so on and so forth. It is tremendously interesting and a book that I would recommend to people just on its merits, but for those of you in Natchez to get a better and deepened understanding of having been there and seen in. By the way, I would mention to you another book, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, which basically is on the subject of cotton in the contemporary world. The movement of the center of cotton growing in the United States to Texas and recounted all of the moves that are made from the point that you harvest cotton to the point that you dispose of the a surplus of T-shirts in Africa and all of the points in Asia, and the United States, Europe and elsewhere in between.

I want to use my time, not only to recount some of the details of the survey and program, but to give you some of my impressions and observations about the place, and about the people. And the people, I found again, if you are going to think about this event next year toward the year after or three years from now on, you will remember Natchez and some people, people that struck you as interesting, invaluable, funny. There were some very good people on the platform and in the audience at this meeting. I will just mention a couple and relate them to some of the points of the meeting. In no particular order, and briefly, Cecil Selness of the state of Minnesota talked about the Minnesota freight office. He is a veteran with what I thought was a very sound advice on how you operate internally in order to establish a significant freight presence within the state DOT. Richard Nordahl, from the State of California, it sounds strange to say this, but he delivered an inspirational sermon on the freight and the importance of being a champion in support of freight. Barbara Ivanoff, the State of Washington showed the analytical side, the business side of determining what you can and ought to do in a freight office in a state DOT. Ted Dahlburg, he always by his presence and personality emphasizes that being able to work well with people in the business community and being able to see the connections between the private sector and public sector in useful day-to-day ways is how you move ahead in trying to do a coordinated program. We had some of our old friends, David Ganovski, 30 years in the railroad business, now with the State of Maryland running the freight logistics office, Steve Slavic, the leader in our efforts to do the Bottom Line Report. New people from Indiana and Oregon. Certainly, I came away with an understanding of how different kinds of people proceeding in different ways can get to the same point, which is to advance the efforts to establish freight transportation in their particular organizations.

Those of you on this webinar have heard Butch Brown. Obviously, somebody at this meeting provided considerable leadership and direction. Also, he challenged people to go home and have at least one thing that they came away with that they were going to do when they got home. We heard from the Governor. Obviously, for the Governor to show up and the Senator to show up, this was an important event, and certainly was important for the participants to realize that this was an event that was significant enough for governors and senators to pay attention. And, the Mississippi DOT, in addition to Butch Brown, to get time to spend time with Steve Slavic, you realize that the Mississippi DOT, and I suspect that some of you from places like California and Florida, you barely know that there is a Mississippi. When you have an opportunity to spend some time with these people, you realize that this is a first rate crowd and doing some very interesting and important and valuable things. The place, the people, these were impressions or observations that I came away with, that I think are personal, but they also relate to what the point was.

I want now to turn more to the substance and detail. Tony mentioned that the response rate on the survey was a remarkable. It certainly was. Here, I commend Juan Flores from the AASHTO staff for telling the states that they were going to respond to the survey or they were going to hear from him every day for the rest of their lives. 47 states, may have wound up being 49 after this was put together, that responded to the survey. Certainly the most important response from States was that freight transportation is a high priority in the state DOTs. Extremely or somewhat, being the better part of the respondents. In Natchez, what I took away was the observation that is frequently made, that freight does not vote is no longer the case, certainly within the MPOs, the state DOTs. Freight is voting and is being heard. People are taking it seriously and giving it a high priority. I also heard at Natchez that the institutions need to flow with the freight, which is to say that freight does not respect borders, but the institutions are all established on jurisdictional basis. That means that they all involve stopping at a county line, city line or state line.

Butch Brown's reference to Senator Lott. When he said in his presentation that it is important for us to come together in every possible venue to talk about how we will do a better job in the freight arena. As Butch said, he spent an hour or more in a video appearance at the conference. I have dealt with senators over the years. It is a very impressive to see a senator that one, has that kind of interest and, two, can handle themselves for an hour or more without benefits of someone shoving notes in front of him. His participation, I thought, was important and useful. In the survey, we asked about high priority freight issues. The state response is tracked closely with the responses of the FHWA Division Offices and with the MPOs. The performance of the freight system, the need to expand upgrades, both highway and other infrastructure, intermodal connections and facilities were among the top items. Truck size and weight and access to the class one railroads, and diverting highway traffic to rail were the others. In the next five years, people will think that capacity congested checkpoints must be the focus. They are concerned about funding and policy to deal with those priorities. They are alert to the reality that what they do locally is going to be a function, in part, and a success of what they do, or lack of success will be a function of developments around the world that they do not necessarily have any influence at all on.

In Natchez, Tony mentioned the focus on freight champions, I came away thinking several things. One, that everyone agreed that you needed people who were both effective and enthusiastic to advance freight within their organizations, but there were all kinds of people, they are people who can take advantage of the situation, see opportunities as they present themselves and they are people that understand the importance of establishing an institutional capacity, and not just a personal influence, but that something will function beyond their tenure. It will provide for some continued freight success in the state after they are gone. The top three issues, state, region and locality, one of the important things that came out of the survey and out of the discussion in Natchez was the need for planning and analysis. Determine the freight capacity needs on the state trade corridors and to do that requires something more than simply looking out the window to see which way the traffic is moving, or to see if it is moving. And the region, developing connections to the entire transportation system and regional gateways, multistate regional corridor groups, in other words, the institutions flowing with the freight. On the localities, reducing or minimizing the congestion, maintenance of existing facilities.

At Natchez, both Tony and Butch made reference to the private sector participants. For me, the presentation by Tracy Rosser, the head of Corporate Logistics for Wal-Mart, was the most striking. He said at the meeting that there is nothing more valuable that public sector planners can do then to understand how what you do impacts the competitiveness of private industries. The only way that you will do that is by having some involvement with the private sector. I thought from my point of view that the description that Rosser offered on how Wal-Mart on a quarterly basis was adjusting its distribution system was on the one hand very interesting and on the other hand frightening. That is to say that Wal-Mart is looking at the origins of their products, the destinations for their markets, the location of their distribution centers, and then on the basis of the data that they have, making adjustments quarterly in how things get from one place to another. If you are in the long term capital investment business, public infrastructure, and you are looking at a private sector, in this case, the world's largest company, that is constantly making changes in patterns of traffic, it certainly suggests a challenge.

We asked in the survey, is there somebody in a position of authority who actively advances freight transportation? The answer was, for the most part, yes, and considerably more than when we asked this the last time around. In Natchez, there was considerable conversation about partnerships developing and nurturing them, maintaining them, and I suspect, that the two underlying realities of partnerships are one, that there has to be, matters of separate and mutual interest involved. Partnerships work if people bring their particular objectives to the table, if they are recognized by all of the partners, and if they have an arrangement that enables everyone to get some of what they want. These are not charitable activities. They are matters of interest. The other is, communication. It is necessary to be constantly or continuously communicating, sharing information, developing the same view of the world. I find it interesting, for example, states will do analyses of traffic simultaneously, major companies, major carriers are doing analyses of their own that relate to traffic. There is not much sharing of that kind of information in order to guarantee that people are working in roughly the same world.

Does your organization recognize the importance of freight transportation needs? The answers there were just overwhelming. Somewhat and yes being virtually a 100%. That is to say, freight is important within the state DOTs. What is the most significant obstacle to collaborating with the MPOs? It might be said that this refers not only to the MPOs but other possible partners. Communication, funding and staffing. Not enough sharing of information, not enough money, and not enough expertise to do with the job. When people were asked, how do you want to get training and professional development, and technical assistance, as Tony said, what people are most interested in is contact with other people. In other words, courses, workshops, peer to peer exchanges. I am imagining that for most people this is not just talking to other people like themselves, but to talking to people that are in the business of freight transportation as well.

The top training needs include engaging with the private sector and stakeholders, Freight 101 general education, financing, Engaging the Private Sector, and performance measures. For those that want more detail on what was on the survey, they can go to the Talking Freight archives for the webinar that was done towards the end of last year. You will find the full state DOT survey. I want to mention a couple of other things that AASHTO is doing that relate to today's conversation and to the future. First, this webinar today, which is linked to a large group in Philadelphia where the Tony is at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and to a large group in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where AASHTO's Water Transportation Committee is meeting and as I understand it about 65 people are on the line. What this tells us is there is a rather large nationwide network that is involved in the freight business in both the public and private sectors. This is probably considerably different from the case five years ago.

I have mentioned a couple of other things. Tomorrow and Friday, Tony and I and others in Philadelphia and Oklahoma will be in Philadelphia for a two day session for states and freight, which is the culmination of a NCHRP project that has been looking at how states are organized and how they can best organize to carry out freight programs. On Monday and Tuesday of next week, we will be involved in a vision meeting, which is part of a larger transportation visioning process. This will be on a future mission for freight transportation in the global economy. We are also in the process of producing the AASHTO Freight Transportation Bottom Line Report. Part of the agenda for the water meeting in Oklahoma was a final review of the ports and waterways report within that comprehensive report. There are three others which will be issued in about two months.

With that, I think I said more than I needed to say. Probably, most importantly, I would be interested in hearing what others who participated in Natchez, or who responded to the survey, or, simply on this webinar have to say or what questions they might have to ask. Thank you.

J. Symoun:
Thank you, Leo. Many of you may have noticed there were some issues with some of the slides not showing. The working version of the presentation will be on the FHWA Freight Planning Web site, and I will let everyone know when that becomes available.

We do not have any questions in the chat area. Let me give you some time to think about questions. I will bring up the slide on the freight peer-to-peer program. Let me get it up here. I encourage you to look at the peer to peer website. It is a great way for the public sector and transportation professionals to share information. It provides free short-term technical assistance regarding freight planning and assistance. If you go to the Web site, you will find more information. You can send an e-mail to set up an exchange.

We will open the telephone lines for questions. If there was anyone who was at the freight partnership conference, I encourage you to give those thoughts over the telephone. If you do not have any questions, but want to share feedback or thoughts on the meeting, feel free to do so. Operator, if you can give instructions on how to ask a question over the telephone.

Operator:
We are ready to begin the question and answer session. If you would like to ask a question or make a comment, please press the three and say your name. If you would like to ask a question or make a comment, please press star 1 and record your name. One moment for the first question.

Once again, and if you would like to ask a question or make a comment, please press star 1 and record your name. One moment. At this time, we do not have any questions.

J. Symoun:
If we do not have any questions, we will go ahead and close out.

T. Furst:
This is Tony. We have someone in the audience who would like to ask a question. In talking about champions and leadership, do you think the fact that we are in essentially having to talk about raising money through taxes or other sources of revenue to pay for these programs is in keeping political leaders away from championing project because they are accused of raising taxes?

B. Brown:
This is Butch Brown. Trent Lott, not to keep using his name time and time again, also Senator Cochran, both of them have been strong champions, using that word again for transportation and transportation infrastructure. Both of them are very, very conservative Republicans. In the context of saying what champions, and might be a little less apt to step forward based on conservative taxation policy, I think at least in our case in Mississippi is a misnomer. The see the need for transportation infrastructure. I do not say highway and the infrastructure, transportation and the infrastructure, particularly in our state and [indiscernible]. And what they understand the necessity of education, that being transportation infrastructure. I do not see that as a reason that an elected official could not or should not be a champion for what we are trying to do here.

L. Penne:
I would go back to what Butch said earlier about the importance of education. I think that people have to have a reason for wanting to do something and for needing to raise money to do it. If they do not have a compelling reason, they are not going to do it. I heard John Mica a couple of weeks ago at the Gateways Coalition, he is a conservative Florida member of Congress, a senior member of the T&I Committee. He said if we are serious about the future of transportation, we need to think big. Thinking big implies multi-trillions. For someone like Mica to say that is surprising to me. Again, the point is to not start out with telling people they are going to have to raise taxes, but to start telling them that we are all going to pay if we do not do something about freight transportation. Having made that sale, then the conversation is, how do you do it?

J. Symoun:
Thank you. As we were answering that question, a question was typed in. It is a question to all presenters. As was noted in Leo's Wal-Mart comments, there is a major disconnect time-wise between public sector freight planning (10-20 years) and private sector freight planning (1-3 years). There is also a strong desire to establish public/private partnerships, including funding partnerships. In what areas can we achieve private sector "buy-in" for mutual public/private benefits? I personally think Intelligent Transportation Systems/Operations improvements is one area where there may be mutual benefits. Leo, we will start with you.

L. Penne:
Well, what I have to say will be a generalization. We have some people on this call that have on the ground experience in dealing with private sector carriers and shippers in doing public / private partnerships. The timeline disconnect is simply a fact and the two sides need to understand that and need to be able to talk the game that is topped by the other side. As I said earlier, I think, at least for a private company, they are interested in investment that has an adequate rate of return. Where there is the opportunity for them to participate with the government, the public sector, in such projects, then you have the basis for a conversation. I was assembling some material earlier today, including material on the corridor and the Shellpot bridge. These are two projects where the public sector used its capacity to do the up front financing and the private sector generated, as a result of the infrastructure investments made, a stream of revenue that made it possible for them to pay per car and to retire the debt. A debt that the railroads could not take on, but a debt that they could retire out of operating revenue. Those are simple examples of cases in which you can see both the public benefit and the private benefits. They were able, though not easy or quickly, to come to an agreement on the financing that took advantage of the capacities of both sectors and met the mutual needs. I think, by the way, the subject of estimating the benefits is one that is important at Natchez and the survey, it is one that people brought up, that if you are a government and are going to be investing money to produce a benefit for a private company or private companies, you are going to have to do a pretty good job of demonstrating that it is a public benefit Project. There has been a lot of work done in the last couple of years on the subject of calculating public benefit, and then proportionating benefit to the costs and developing financing packages to that take those things into account.

T. Furst:
This is Tony, one thing that I'd like to add is that in the past, the private sector explained that they would work around problems and then realized how long it would take them to get a project moved forward. Those days are behind us. The work-arounds have been [indiscernible]. This is the way that things move in the public-sector. We can probably accelerate some of the things that we do and move forward a little more quickly. The other talks about ITS where we might find mutual benefits quickly. I have seen some of the discussions we have had in MPOs were we not bring the truckers in and have them talk about what is happening in their respective geographic region. You can make changes quickly.

L. Penne:
I wonder, Jennifer, if I can ask a question? It has to do with the people that I work for, but also the MPOs. In state DOTs, most of the freight people that I work with our people that are responsible for one or more of the freight modes, trucking, regulation. When we hold meetings like the Natchez meeting, we have some of those people attending, but we also have a variety of other people. Principally, out of the planning area, where you will have someone or a unit that will be responsible for incorporating freight into the state wide multi modal plan. It has seemed to me that to advance freight transportation within a state DOTs, you needed to get the modal and interests integrated into the broader functions like planning, finance, a project developments within the state DOTs. I am wondering if there were people on the line that could speak to that?

J. Symoun:
If anyone wants to answer that that is on the line, go ahead. I believe it is star 1 to answer the question, is that correct? There is another question typed in for Tony. Could you explain more about Long Term Program for Truck Parking?

T. Furst:
The truck parking facilities program, Section 1305, if you go to our Web site, you can find more information about it. It is not designed to conduct research in long-term parking, but to improve capacity and availability of long-term parking for commercial vehicles on the NHS. A full to download of the program and what we are looking for is on the FHWA freight Web site. If you have any other questions beyond that, there are points of contact for the program. You can contact Bill on my staff or Mike.

Richard Nordahl:
This is Richard Nordahl from the California DOT. In regards to the previous question, a couple of thoughts. In many cases, the planning offices in various states have been the champion of freight issues. Coming from the long-range planning works, the changes that are occurring on the network. Many times they are being driven by not only the growth on that network but also the changes in the network in terms of changes in mode, growth of impacts, etc. That process has to extend out. Part of the work of the best champions, in various DOTs is to build up connections that say whether it be either planning, programming or development side, or some of the modal divisions that the Department of Transportation can say how can we work together to achieve common objectives? How, for example, if you are in an environment where you have a passenger program, how can we work together to achieve both, a better handling of freight on the rail system as well as to also achieve a rail system that handles passengers better? I am looking for some common ground that is based on a foundation of understanding the issues, both from a policy standpoint, and issued discretion standpoint and a factoid standpoint and lay that out in terms of how do we respond to this from a project way, from an operations standpoint to bring about the changes that reduce congestion so that we improved mobility and out about greater environmental improvements at so that we can bring about the right kind of outcome that ultimately leads to systems that work better, both for the public side and the private side, ultimately in that process, we better serve the citizens that we have the responsibility to serve?

J. Symoun:
There are a few more questions typed in. Leo there is a question coming in from a short line railroad at the DVRPC meeting. Can you embellish on your comment about Class One access?

L. Penne:
Yes. Last week, the surface transportation board held a hearing on rail capacity. AASHTO had a witness, the State of Maryland submitted a statement. In that statement, the point was made that a national rail system is not simply a rail system that can move something from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York. It is a rail system that enables the old parts of the country to avail themselves of the rail services. Obviously, the evolution of the rail system today has caused people to think that the class one railroads constitute the national system and that the short lines and regionals are simply local roads. Our point of view is that given that the class one shed more than half of the system that they own back in the '30's, we need to be rethinking what national means for rail service. Obviously, the short lines and regionals are an important part of the national rail system today, or certainly should be. When we are doing analyses and developing programs and looking at the evolution of the class of one service, hundred car unit trains, long haul, that if rail service is important for particular industries and the to give their places and do not fit into that service paradigm, we need to be working to make the adjustments necessary.

J. Symoun:
Thank you. The next question is will there be a training session on how to calculate public benefits of a private project? Leo, any thoughts on that?

T. Furst:
Jennifer, if you want me to, I will tackle that one. That was an element put in the program that you can [indiscernible]. It is something that we have been contemplating within the freight office. As we put together the [indiscernible], it was a question that we had in our proposed rulemaking comments. We ask for comments. We have not come up with all of the metrics yet. It is still a work in progress. If there are any sites in that regard, contact the office and we will be more than happy to talk to you about it. The answer is that we have not figured out how to do that. When we do, we will engage with everyone.

L. Penne:
Let me make a comment on that. I said in my remarks that this is an area that there is a lot of interest in and a lot of activity. People on the line may know that the TRB, in the last year has purchased a couple of pieces of work that are useful. One, on the public benefits from freight, rail investment. It was done by David Hunt of Cambridge Systematics. Another is rail projects to relieve highway congestion. It is, obviously, one of the benefits that was done by-the lead was Joe Bryant. We did a workshop with our rail committee focused on that. We are proceeding with the researchers to see if we can, in this case, interestingly, we thought that the results of that work, rail projects to relieve congestion would be most helpful to DOT rail staffs. When we did the workshop, the conclusion of the real people is that they would find it most useful to take it into their departments and be able to do some sort of an information or development session with their highway planning and finance people. The real people were not the ones that needed to be convinced that you could be doing rail projects that would have a benefit for the highway. It was the other people. Other people have done, and it is most particularly in the rail area, but Florida has a real program. I think it is fairly simple, but routine cost / benefit test that they run. I know that Pa., for its rail program has a set of benefits that it calculates for a binding decision for a program. I am assuming that there are other states that do as well. We do not have such a training session scheduled. If our members tell us that we should, then we will.

J. Symoun:
Thank you. The last question is, is there any initiative to send the results from the Natchez conference, in executive summary form, directly to State Governors and State DOT top executives from AASHTO? Tony or Leo, thoughts on that.

L. Penne:
We did that with the Columbus freight partnership meeting. Let me, by the way make a point. This is the AASHTO Federal Highway Administration freight partnership. Part of this is now two meetings. We think it is the banner under which we collaborate on freight on a continuing basis and not simply to hold an occasional meeting. We did do a distribution to the AASHTO for of members with a half letter from Tom Norton who then chaired our committee to bring this to their attention. I got enough reaction and response to think that was a useful thing to do. What the question implies and what the conversation that preceded it implies is that we ought to do a little better job of packaging and communicating, not simply sending a 40 page report with a letter on top, but may be producing a useful two page or four page for an executive level decision maker, which is partly what we intend to do with the state and freight project that takes place in Philadelphia tomorrow and Friday.

T. Furst:
We are putting together such results to send to all of our Division Administrators.

J. Symoun:
I should mention that the proceeding report is currently in draft format. We are working on completing that. We will have that online as soon as it is available for all of you. That is all of the questions that we have.

It is about 2:30. We will close out now. If you think of additional questions, I have the email addresses for Tony and Leo showing on the slide on your screen, as well as the freight planning LISTSERV address. I want to thank all presenters for the three great presentations. Thank you all for attending today's seminar. The recorded version of this event will be available within the next week on the Talking Freight website.

The next seminar will be held on May 16 and is titled "Freight Analysis Framework Forecasts and 2005 Provisional Estimates." If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to visit the Talking Freight Web Site and sign up for this seminar. The address is up on the slide on your screen. I also encourage you to join the Freight Planning LISTSERV if you have not already done so. Enjoy the rest of your day!

Updated: 03/29/2011
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000