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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

A Guidebook for Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Transportation Planning


Publication #: FHWA-HEP-09-015 | JANUARY 2009

Prepared for the
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

Prepared by
Wilbur Smith Associates
and S.R. Kale Consulting LLC


The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has supported development of this guidebook under the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning (STEP) Cooperative Research Program. This program, authorized under Section 5207 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) has a general objective of improving the understanding of the complex relationship between surface transportation, planning, and the environment.

To carry out the provisions of the STEP, FHWA has developed several categories of emphasis areas, one of which is freight planning. For the Fiscal Year 2008 program, the objective of research under the freight planning emphasis area was to develop methods for the integration of freight into the transportation planning and programming processes at the state and metropolitan levels. STEP further identified research on "innovative methods for effectively engaging the private sector freight community into the State and metropolitan planning processes" as an example of a possible research topic.

The "Guidebook on Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Transportation Planning" is intended to help meet the objective of the freight planning emphasis area as well as the overall STEP program. The guidebook is intended for usage primarily by state transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in their efforts to obtain input from private sector and other freight stakeholders in the development of transportation plans, transportation improvement programs, and other freight-related initiatives. The guidebook also may be useful for users in local governments, port districts or authorities, private sector businesses, associations, universities, and other entities.

The guidebook is intended to serve as a stand-alone document to support FHWA's Freight Professional Development (FPD) Program. This includes FHWA's one-day workshop on "Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning." The guidebook supplements material in the workshop and is expected to be a useful resource for planners and others who are unable to formally enroll in the workshop. See Appendix 4, Parts C and D, of this guidebook for more information about the FPD program and the workshop.

1. Introduction

During the past 15 years, "public involvement" as a practice, has become an essential element of transportation planning and programming process. Input through public involvement helps transportation officials respond to citizen concerns by directing public investments to the needs of the traveling public, and results in better decision-making and quality transportation outcomes for both people and goods movement.

Question. Are there any requirements that public transportation agencies engage the private sector in freight planning activities?

Answer. SAFETEA-LU calls for states and metropolitan planning organizations to provide freight shippers and providers of freight transportation services with reasonable opportunities to comment on transportation plans and transportation improvement programs. (See Appendix 2 of this guidebook.) Additionally, state transportation agencies and MPOs may have public involvement procedures, plans, guidance,
and the like.

While most state departments of transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have established practices and guidelines for public involvement, few have developed similar resources for engaging the private sector (i.e. the business community) in planning activities. To facilitate greater participation in state and metropolitan transportation planning, federal legislation encourages states and MPOs to provide opportunities for interested parties to provide input into the development of transportation plans and programs. Regarding freight for example, SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) stipulates that states and MPOs shall provide freight shippers and providers of freight transportation services with reasonable opportunities to comment on transportation plans and programs.

The purpose of this guidebook is to further the practice of facilitating private sector involvement in freight transportation policy, planning, and programming. Moreover, the guidebook is intended to supplement materials from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) workshop on "Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning." The guidebook focuses on the following three questions from the FHWA workshop:

Why is getting the private sector involved in the transportation planning process important?

Who is the private sector?

How can the public sector best engage the private sector in freight policy, planning, and project programming?

This guidebook is intended to advance the state-of-the-practice in freight planning by providing another tool to help transportation planners build their skills and knowledge regarding techniques for understanding the concerns of freight stakeholders. Improving freight planning skills and knowledge will contribute to better quality transportation plans and policies, as well as enhance the identification of freight needs and projects for transportation improvement programs. The case studies and other material in the guidebook will be useful for updating and expanding FHWA workshop materials.

The guidebook is divided into the following sections:

Sections typically begin with a summary of what is included in the section narrative, followed by a core discussion of the subject identified for each section. Some sections also include a review of the challenges and issues planners are likely to encounter when undertaking efforts to engage the private sector, with suggestions for navigating through potential hurdles.

Appendix 1 provides a list of acronyms used in this guidebook. Appendix 2 details the federal planning regulations regarding freight involvement in the development of state and metropolitan transportation plans and improvement programs. Appendix 3 shows a Freight Stakeholder Coalition proposal for a national freight advisory committee. Appendix 4 lists references cited in this guidebook and summarizes other guidebooks that discuss engaging the private sector in freight planning. Appendix 4 also identifies training courses on freight planning and programming.

Users are encouraged to use the guidebook in several ways. First, transportation planners can use the guidebook to help answer why, who, and how questions about engaging the private sector in freight planning efforts. Answering these questions can facilitate public involvement efforts as well as the development of plans and improvement programs that adequately address freight and goods movement as well as people movements. Second, transportation planners can use the guidebook to help explain to private sector stakeholders why their input is important to the transportation planning process. Third, the guidebook provides information about professional development programs for planners wanting to further develop their freight planning.

Updated: 4/1/2011
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