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At A Glance

On January 9, 2009, a compendium of U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), State, and Local transportation officials, as well as industry experts, convened to discuss six existing and emerging crucial transportation topics. This diverse group of transportation experts heard background briefings on each topic and engaged in detailed dialogue and discussions to identify critical research needs needed to support the surface transportation legislative reauthorization. The six topics highlighted for consideration by meeting participants consisted of:

  1. Future markets for public-private partnerships
  2. Implications of alternative fuels on transportation
  3. Policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with freight movements
  4. Linking transportation and land use
  5. Achieving intermodal interoperability for freight movements
  6. Impacts of higher fuel costs.

For each topic, a background briefing paper was prepared, distributed, and presented to meeting participants prior to any detailed discussions. These background papers were designed not only to provide a common backdrop, but also to provoke discussion on emerging research needs. These briefing papers are presented in detail in this issue of Innovations for Tomorrow's Transportation. Following each presentation, meeting participants were organized into multidisciplinary and multi-organizational discussion groups to exchange ideas and to identify areas where existing research does not adequately address the current or emerging issues.

Despite the breadth of research topics considered, several common themes were identified by participants of the various targeted discussion groups. For example, workshop participants clearly identified the need for, and benefits of, increased public involvement and outreach and consistently stressed the need for DOT to continue and enhance existing education and outreach activities. Other cross-topic research areas were identified including research regarding a mileage-based or VMT-based tax and intermodal operability.

In the transportation community, it is widely understood that the current revenue streams are not sufficient to sustain the highway system in the United States. Many, including the Congressionally mandated National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, suggest that moving to a VMT-based tax is one avenue that should be considered1. Prior to adoption of this alternative approach, workshop participants identified that research is needed on the role of public-private partnerships in administering a vehicle miles traveled fee and understanding travel behavior changes as a result of implementing a VMT-based tax.

Intermodal operability continues to be a focus of research and investigation by DOT and others, and is an area for further research within the context of reducing GHG emissions, transportation and land use, the impact of alternative fuels, and within the general area of interoperability itself.

Overall, workshop participants identified more than 34 different research needs among the six topic areas. These research needs are listed below. Additional details are provided in the main body of this issue of Innovations for Tomorrow's Transportation.

Future Markets for Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

Policies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Associated with Freight Movements

Impacts of Higher Fuel Costs

Implications of Alternative Fuels on Transportation

Achieving Intermodal Interoperability for Freight Movements

Linking Transportation and Land Use

1 National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, Final

Report, "Paying our Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance," February 2009.

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