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Talking Freight

Integrating Freight in Project Selection

July 16, 2008 Talking Freight Transcript


Jennifer Symoun

Good afternoon or good morning to those of you to the West. Welcome to the Talking Freight Seminar Series. My name is Jennifer Symoun and I will moderate today's seminar. Today's topic is Integrating Freight in Project Selection. Please be advised that today's seminar is being recorded.

Today we'll have four presenters, Libby Ogard of Prime Focus, Richard Martinko of the University of Toledo, and Steve Devine and Katherine Trapani of the Rhode Island DOT.

Prime Focus LLC was established in 2001 as a freight transportation consulting firm specializing in economic analysis, freight transportation research, freight policy issues and transportation facility feasibility studies and public outreach. Libby Ogard is actively involved in the Transportation Research Forum, Transportation Research Board, Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and National Industrial Transportation League. Ms. Ogard has spent 17 years in the railroad industry with Burlington Northern Railroad and Conrail. She spent 7 years at Schneider National Carriers and was General Manager for the Retail Division responsible for Target, Family Dollar, Walgreens, Home Depot and other accounts. She received her BA from Michigan State University and her MBA from University of St. Thomas, St Paul, MN.

Rich Martinko has a comprehensive professional background that includes over 33 years of experience as an engineer and manager. He presently serves as the Director of the University of Toledo's Intermodal Transportation Institute and the University Transportation Center, one of only 60 designated by the Federal Department of Transportation nationwide. He has had extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. Rich has held management positions in the Manufacturing, Consulting, and Construction sectors. Most recently before joining the University of Toledo, Rich served as the Assistant Director of Highway Operations for The Ohio Department of Transportation one of the ten largest nationally. Rich is a 1974 graduate of the University of Toledo where he earned a B.S. Civil Engineering and in 2002 he was named an Outstanding Civil Engineering Alumni. Mr. Martinko has been a registered professional engineer in Ohio since 1978.

Katherine Trapani has been the Supervising Planner for Transportation at Rhode Island Statewide Planning for the last 7 years. She is originally from the State of Maine. She has a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Penn State University and a Master of Community Planning from the University of Rhode Island. Prior to joining Statewide Planning, she worked for the RI Port Authority and Economic Development Corporation for 7 years.

Steve Devine is Chief of the Intermodal Planning Section for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. He has been in this position since 2003. The Intermodal Planning Section is responsible for all of RIDOT's non-highway programs and projects, including: Commuter Rail Program; Enhancement Program; CMAQ Program; Bicycle/Pedestrian Program; Ferry Boat Program; and Park & Ride Program. Mr. Devine also serves as Project Manager on the South County Commuter Rail Project, which is a 20 mile extension of MBTA service south of Providence, Project Manager on the Warwick Intermodal Station Project, which is a $210 million consolidated intermodal transportation and rental car facility adjacent to T.F. Green Airport., and Project Manager on Phase II of South County Commuter Rail Extension Study investigating other stations at Kingston, Westerly, East Greenwich and Cranston. Mr. Devine Began at RIDOT in 1987 as Planner on the state's alternative transportation & rideshare program. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Urban Affairs, with a Concentration in City Planning, from University of Rhode Island

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 are available for download from the file download box in the lower right corner of your screen. The presentations will also be available online 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 Integrating Freight in Project Selection. Our first presentation will be given by Libby Ogard of Prime Focus LLC. As a reminder, if you have questions during the presentation please type them into the chat box and they will be answered in the last 30 minutes of the seminar.

Libby Ogard:

Thank you very much for inviting me today, I am glad we have so many people on the line. The topic we were assigned was integrating freight into the planning process. We are very aware that freight planning processes vary significantly by place, region, size, and the overall economy of a general area. As we think about the complexity of our nation, the fact that ports may have a very different planning process than maybe inland or rural areas, places where there's a lot of urban congestion that might be a very different planning challenge than someplace very rural and might struggle with even modal access types of issues.

We went through the process, interviewed many different folks, identified through pretty extensive intense investigation how the planning process changed based on region, place and size, and how the projects are identified through various different processes. We also looked at the project selection process, the use of tools, performance measures and different funding partnership strategies, advocacy and outreach efforts.

We identified the key choices with this, went through the needs identification process, identified seven different key freight elements in the planning process. What we will do is, in the next several slides, go through the points in more detail. The first is a technical lead. One of the things we identified in had this process is the fact that a freight champion is exceptionally helpful. We also identified that there's a freight planning process continuum associated with many of the planning efforts. So while you might start a freight planning process with simply a single individual, as the maturity process increases and as you go down the freight planning process path, many times, when you evolve into a more holistic process, the role of that freight champion will change. So in some of the interviews we identified a freight champion might be an individual go-to person, or a resource person that might be available to anybody within the MPO or region or might be available to anybody within the state DOT That person often had to be a generalist and had to be fairly familiar with a broad variety of issues, but in some respects, as that person gained not only the identification of being the freight expert on staff, they also evolved into being more of a generalist and more available for folks that had questions about economic development, impact of transportation on economic development as well as specific engineering details, things like geometry, turning radius, stop light, transportation flows. In some respects those people's roles evolved into more of an entrepreneurial role, trying to look at choke points, congestion points, places where we might be able to look at different innovation, ways we might be able to look at things different in other words to help alleviate choke points

Knowing where the freight modes are, knowing what drives congestion, whether you are dealing with an international trade problem or domestic trade problem are issues where information might get "stuck" in the planning process. Some of the examples we looked at, how do we help people gain a first-hand understanding of exactly where some of the choke points and critical cog jest yon issues are arising. One area we found which was particularly instructive was the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. They actually instituted a problem where they called it freight for a day. They got several volunteers across different organization to go look at specific freight nodes and freight choke points. That firsthand observation helped a number of people throughout different planning responsibilities within the different agencies understand exactly how this system was performing, and how to potentially come up with methods to stream line freight and freight movement within a specific geography. The other thing we studied, at this process most of the processes are a bottom-up process. A lot of the information has to start at the lowest common level and then work its way up through the freight planning process to incorporate freight more into a programmatic system.

The key elements to understanding regional freight is what is the economic structure. Are you in a production point, distribution point, where does your location fit with respect to, the trade infrastructure, and are you at an end point of railroad, mid-point of railroad, inland port location or a point where many modes or many lanes or corridors come together. What's the freight infrastructure there? Are you currently at capacity? Is there opportunity to expand capacity? What are the different types of commodity and vehicle flows that might impact your region? Things like are you dealing with surges of bulk materials, grain during a harvesting period. Are you looking at retail which might have stronger flows during the holiday season? How are organization and public policy issues impacting your freight planning at that level. The next element we looked at was linking freight to traditional planning.

One of the things that came to the top of that right away is that freight is a contact sport. Everything that we think we know is changing at a pretty fast rate and we really need to take a proactive position in trying to understand what the freight trends are and how those challenges and changes might effect your specific region. For example, today we are looking at diesel fuel in the range of $5 a gallon, how might that impact the number of truck trips and distribution activity in your region. As we nationally go from three to five distribution centers for large customers we are looking at expanding to six to 12 distribution centers to recognize fuel costs have increased so much. If that happens, how does that impact your region? These are questions we ask the different constituents to help us with in the interview. So, if we look at the most successful examples, the linkages came from trying to understand what the freight strategy is, particularly with respect to your region and how you fit in a national program with respect to freight and freight movement. Then highlighting freight projects within the TIP, and identifying the freight corridors and facilities driving the activity within the region. The guide book provides help and guidance on how to effectively integrate the freight within the existing process, and we've come up with several strategies to look at that.

Freight data is often the Achilles heel in any one of these type projects. Much of this data is viewed as proprietary, particularly at the private sector level; yet, it is incredibly important to be able to identify what the impact is of the specific transportation improvement project, not only for the local economy, but to help justify the cost of the project. I think that the private sector, at least what we identified in the interviews is beginning to realize that this is a full contact sport, and that in order to help improve on an overall level there needs to be collaboration and some partnership. One of the things we saw is that with companies, if you can develop trust, a good relationship, particularly with the local freight stakeholders in the region, they are more than happy to share issues they struggle with, specifically if there's help to come to a positive resolution in this area. I think we are making strides in this area. I think this is one of the area that's probably is going to represent the slowest level of improvement we see, identifying gaps, understanding how we might be able to put together specific infrastructure fixes, for example, being able to time signals, being able to put in left hand turn lanes, being able to help speed freight or show private sector exactly how a transportation improvement might impact their freight volume and velocity. It goes a long way to helping bring the private sector to the table and helping them share data with a specific project in mind.

From an outreach perspective, that was probably one of the most difficult and probably the most interesting piece, how do you get the private sector to become interested in understanding and working together with not only the state, but the MPO, in identifying transportation improvement programs. One group was very innovative and put together an open call for freight projects, getting the message out to trade associations, the private sector within the region through Chamber of Commerce efforts, and trying to actively engage the private sector to come up with ideas for freight projects.

Many of the MPOs and state planners have begun to start the process in a slow way, doing on-site interviews with specific private sector freight stakeholders within the region or within the key areas where they know there are significant transportation activities. I think one of the biggest difficulties we identified here is that -- and this is old news for most of you -- but most of the private sector is looking for relatively short-term improvements, is looking at a planning horizon of roughly five years, whereas the public sector is looking at long-range projects that might take 10 to 20 years to implement. One example might be the Detroit intermodal freight facility, in the planning process well over 10 years. It's been a project on the books, a very long time in coming. It's been very hard, across the board for state MPOs, and state DOTs to keep the private sector engaged on many of these projects that have such a long duration. I think the identification of milestones and being able to show progress along the line during these larger projects is another very helpful approach to achieving effective outreach and be able to gets the private sector to participate.

One example we identified in the interview process was the red zone approach. This was in a very large community, urban area, probably a better way to capsulize this. Several of the key freight stakeholders that had significant transportation interests basically had the direct telephone contact to a specific member within the MPO, so when they started running into transportation issues, difficulties, they would give them a call to get that on the radar screen. That may not be the best for long-range planning, but at least it was a method of connecting the private sector with a planner to help identify, target where specific choke points at different times of the day were happening.

Multijurisdictional approaches are very important too. Another area we identified was it was often hard to quantify benefits, particularly over a long corridor. When we think about the nature of freight, freight does not usually originate and terminate in the same local region, but has certain metrics associated with each mode. What originates or terminates or passes through a specific jurisdiction or community, may have a significant impact on the local traffic flow, as well as congestion and overall highway performance in that region. So to understand where the freight is going to, coming from, and where these choke points and other bottlenecks are occurring, and helping understand, quantifying the benefits, very critical in order to be able to implement a project.

There are a number of freight training and education opportunities. On this slide we listed several. The important part is to recognize any profile or guide book put together needs to recognize there's a lot of existing information available today in the form of case studies, as well as AASHTO and the NCFRP program, as well as a number of different case studies available, resources available through the TRB committees that might have specific relationship to either freight or specific regions. One of the things that was identified as a very good tool or mechanism to not only engage the private sector, but to heighten the awareness of freight and planning, was the availability of workshops. Several workshops, at least in different regions have been held to try to help educate and provide a face for the freight transportation problems that are being experienced in the specific region. Some of these workshops actually had agendas that had working groups, break-out sessions where they brought not only the public sector, but the private sector and MPO agencies, other local, regional planners together to try to bring some quick-hit improvements or opportunities to gain some relief for some of the problems they saw local lie.

Advocacy is the last element we will talk about in terms of the seven key elements for freight planning and integrating into the transportation plan. One thing that is very difficult, we recognized through the process, freight is often considered as a private sector problem. While we see it in terms of on the highway, it's often hard to identify where the freight is originating, where it's going to, why it happens to be at a certain given place at a certain time. Again, advocating freight and being able to articulate the benefits of freight transportation improvement projects, need to be able to be communicated at the highest level of the organization to create champions and advocates within the state DOTs, the MPOs, to help highlight and articulate the importance of the project.

One of the interviews I was specifically involved with, was the Chicago area, and one of the key elements that they identified for being able to get the Chicago CREATE project through was the advocacy and leadership of their top officials that were very committed to the process, recognizing the process is still underway and these processes often take a very long time to come to fruition, being able to have a champion, a leader that helps keep the constituents engaged and helps deliver the message not only to those associated with funding the project, but those in the process of developing the project, is very important and critical.

For more information on the guidebook and process, we have put together the links to the website. If you have questions I would be happy to answer them at the end.

J. Symoun:

Thank you. I should also mention the guidebook is available for download in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Thank you, Libby. We will move on to Richard Martinko of the University of Toledo. Please ahead whether you are ready.

Richard Martinko:

It's my pleasure to be with you, thank you for taking time to participate with us here today. I would like to talk about a particular case study that I am aware of in Ohio, we have struggled with at the DOT, plus now worked with at the university. I would like to frame the argument about why freight is so important to Ohio, within a 300-mile radius, Ohio is really the 35th largest state geographically, it's a rather small state, but as you can see, it has a very robust transportation network as far as interstates, truck traffic. Thirteen percent by value of all freight traveling in the United States touches Ohio's transportation system. So freight and freight planning for Ohio is very important. There's a conflict, however, between maintaining the existing, and expansion of freight opportunities. Pretty clear when you look at indicators as to Ohio's economy, as the gross state product of Ohio grows, it pretty much tracks along the same slope as truck VMT, probably true for a number of you in your states also. Ohio recognized that and revised their macro corridor program to include routes that relieve freight congestion and routes that had high freight growths.

Selection-wise, here are typical examples of how Ohio does project selection. They have a transportation review advisory committee, called TRAC, being revised with the new administration, it evaluates under a criteria, put into a formula. There's a TRAC council made up of business people, community leaders from around the state. 70% of the scoring is done through transportation and safety, 33 economic development, and extra points for local or private participation, and modal impacts, anything that is involved in urban revitalization. Projects are scored, ranked, and then funded accordingly. If a project is worthy, but funding is not available because it doesn't score high enough, it drops down to what's called a tier two level, that's the process Ohio uses to determine major projects. The freight projects typically that are going on right now, there's a grade separation program that the governor put in place, I think it was at the $10 million, 10-year program, presently 30 grade separation projects involved. A Wilmington bypass involving a major freight company. Route 24 runs from Indiana to Fort Wayne, trucks on a two-lane road, that project is being done, about a $110 million project. The Ohio River Valley, the one I will to focus on as a real world example, some of the struggles ODOT has, the Rickenbacker intermodal yard, a complete project, huge, about 175-acre intermodal yard, probably about 68 to 70 million-dollars for that yard. The key element ODOT struggled with was who pays, and does anybody care where the money comes from. From my point of view, I am not sure. I wanted to throw the issues out there, not am advocating any one point of view, but we have the good, bad and ugly, what the DOT struggled with in this tipping point decision.

Every TRAC project has a sponsor. The Columbus Regional Airport Authority was a partner. Existing intermodal facility was overcapacity, and future predictions obviously show that by 2015 will make the present facility grossly under capacity. There are some major economic drivers that are located in Columbus. This intermodal yard was extremely important to economics for Ohio. It's also part of Norfolk Southern's heartland corridor, and I will show you a map there. It tarts at the Port of Virginia, moves East. There are tunnels that require major rehabilitation. Off to Columbus, and to Chicago. Now, that shaves off a considerable, 1031-miles to 1264, the way the existing route moves toward Harrisburg, so there was a specific savings for Norfolk Southern. The Rickenbacker logistics part is there in the yellow box.

It's really an integrated logistics park, will be built in stages. The orange is the intermodal terminal, 375-acres, a campus, cargo, north for business development, and a rail campus. You start developing ancillary businesses for the parts the intermodal facility carries, you get distributors, warehouses, there's a real leveraging of effect there. What's important with this slide, this is Norfolk Southern's business revenue mix. As you can see, intermodalism is very close to the largest share of their revenues. The reason I pull that slice out is it factors into what decision the DOT makes based on what level of participation the railroad puts into the project.

Rickenbacker Port Authority in their application for this asked for 50 million dollars. The railroad is only going to match $10 million, which is why I showed that slice of 21%, huge percentage of the revenue, but they were only matching $10 million of the project, and asking for $50 million from the DOT. They cited benefits normally associated with congestion mitigation, reduced congestion and economic development. Unfortunately, to build on what Libby was talking about as far as data, there wasn't a lot of data put forth to support those benefits, nor was this run through the TIP process or MPO. It was a project the port authority at the airport and the railroad wanted to get through the DOT process.

Now, the good, obviously the economic benefits of this project, as it was laid out, proposed, you can read them. Major shipping cost savings, truck miles reduction, significant reduction of emissions, and over the next 30 years of operation there's a claim of 9500 direct jobs, additional square footage, construction, machinery, equipment. A lot of economic benefits, as I said earlier, associated with an intermodal yard. How good are these numbers? How clearly developed are they? How supportive was the data? It was rather -- I think it was a black box. These were the numbers presented, not sure how clear it was these actual benefits will take place.

The bad part was, as far as ODOT's initial response, you are asking for 75% of public funds for a private beneficiary. How can ODOT, without real hard data determine the real need of Norfolk Southern, especially when you claim this is one of the highly profitable for your business. If it's not, why should the public pay for highway funds to be diverted to one company, not a publicly-shared project.

Transportation benefits, they are there, but they are probably not the primary benefit of the project. Obviously economic development is great. We support that, especially here at the intermodal institute, but the DOT, struggling with infrastructure funds, how to allocate money, those were the decisions they were trying to make to reach the tipping point about that project. If the DOT sets a precedent, how does it respond to other private companies that ask for the same thing. As I said, the immediate job creation was only about 140 jobs, the rest is projected into the future. As far as points for other financial contribution, this was the DOT, money asked for through the TRAC process and a $10 million match with NS. Not a lot of local involvement.

The question is what's the highest use for potential dollars, the DOT trying to maintain infrastructure, this is an example of a situation in Columbus where at the I-70 and 71, 27 crashes annually, systems interchange no where near able to be completely funded, and here we have a opportunity cost of $49 million that could be diverted to other uses that are semiprivate. They struggled with that decision. What happened was the port authority changed funding. They just funded the connector road that gets to the airport, and ODOT did approve that. They programmed an $8.2 million improvement to the infrastructure that would move towards the airport. Now, the ugly was where's the rest of the money come from?

What happened was there was a match for earmarks. I don't know how many DOTs felt, I know Ohio felt the source of funding keeps getting bled off by earmarks. Ohio has such a robust transportation system, the formulas used to determine the money Ohio gets from the primary funding source, Ohio usually gets a pretty fair share, but if you keep bleeding the primary source for earmarks, the source stays the same and you get a smaller and smaller amount of money. The earmark issues are ones a lot of DOTs struggle with, but eventually through SAFETEA-LU the project got a $3.4 million earmark, and the key policy questions I am bringing up here for the group to consider is what are the public transportation benefits of a private project? Is economic development a valid purpose for federal aid funding? Potential investment in a rail intermodal facility, is that a superior opportunity to known existing alternative transportation investments, especially with the infrastructure problem that most DOTs are having?

The benefits, again, transportation benefits, shift from truck traffic to intermodal traffic. The reduction in VMT road maintenance costs, there should be some. There should be a benefit for safety, and should be an air quality benefit. Without any data, crank a few numbers, the VMT would be reduced in Franklin County, the county Columbus is in. The annual VMT truck travel in Franklin County is 438 million-miles. That was a reduction of less than 1%, .2%. On the down side, an intermodal facility may increase VMT over areas. There may be a not-in-my-backyard uprising. The maintenance costs were too small to measure.

Here's the environmental piece of this puzzle the DOT put together as far as VOC, NOX, and fine particulate emission. You look at regional emissions versus reduction, those again were fractions of 1 percent of reduction. The claimed air quality benefits were relatively small. So, the ugly issues again still remain, the title 23 earmarks don't fit well for, the air quality benefits minimal, VMT, open to debate. As I said before, there was little data to really make a hard decision, and it wasn't in the long-range transportation improvement plan or the MPO's plan, so that was an issue.

Now the contracting and maintenance, what I mean by that, what ODOT meant, this project was funded by an earmark, but the railroad was going to manage and construct the project. The typical DOT oversight with change orders, investigation, things in section 646 the DOTs have to comply with were really non-existent for this project. The railroad was going to construct the project. That, I think, needs to be looked at in the long run as far as where and how DOTs and governmental entities participate in these public/private partnerships. There needs to be a new, I think, new approach. We have to get the railroads involved to get the public some answers, provide data, participate in long range planning process for the DOT and MPO, and there may be acknowledged public contracting constraints and oversight to make sure there's value for the money. We need to encourage more private beneficiaries, get some better public use. Some of the people were talking earlier about other things such as grade separations, traffic lights, those are all great things to do, the MPO process, we want to get local funding involved. Let's identify the public benefits a little better, and the private sector investment needs to be beefed up. So where are we? In the sunset of this new intermodal frontier, right now there are few regulations that fit the frontier, we need a flexible sheriff to bring law and order, railroads, the FHWA all have to compromise, bend. The new regulation has to reflect the new condition and the way of life on this frontier. That concludes what I wanted to bring to the table, and the questions that I wanted to put out there. I am not taking any stances as to the right answer, but those are the question that's I think need to be answered.

J. Symoun:

Thank you, Rich, I encourage anybody to post questions to Rich or any others in the chat area, we will get to those after the presentation. Our next presentation will be given by Katherine Trapani of Rhode Island Statewide Planning and Steve Devine of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. . You can go ahead when you are ready.

Katherine Trapani:

Good afternoon everyone. I want to talk about the planning process, then I will turn it over to Steve Devine, he will talk about an extraordinary project in Rhode Island. I know what you are thinking, Rhode Island is such a puny state, this land mass shows not even all of New York, New England, and there we are. A thousand square miles, we are painfully aware of our small size, used often use as a yardstick to show the size of forest fires, cattle ranches and ice shelves. Our small size allows us to have a unique and efficient planning process. Within the Department of Administration, the single statewide MPO, state planning council our MPO board has no elected officials. All cities and towns are required to have comprehensive plans, and those are reviewed for consistency with the state guide plan, 28 different elements. The cornerstone of our transportation process is our transportation advisory committee, called the TAC. We meet monthly in the evening, there are 26 members, members of the public, nongovernment organizations, and freight advocates include the construction industry, trucking association and economic development.

I would like to talk a little about our TIP, and how this process works when we actually have money, room in the TIP for new projects, not the case in the development of our 2009 TIP. In the past we reach out, cast a wide net and ask cities and towns for their project proposals, state agencies, members of the public, and also transportation providers.

The criteria to evaluate the projects, there are six here. It's a 120-point scale, each worth 20 points, score on mobility, cost-effectiveness, environmental impact, economic impact, consistency with state and local plans, and safety, security and technology. Each of these criteria have six to eight sub-criteria. I will spare you the excruciating detail on that. If there's a negative impact in any one of these projects can get a negative impact. They are split up into regional subcommittees and they are the ones who score the projects. The way the criteria is set up, it works for all modes, the more typical projects are highway projects that come from city and towns, this also has worked for a bike path project, proposed by a member of the public and a rail project proposed by the local freight rail, Providence and Worcester Railroad was for several million dollars, the other for a few 100,000, they did get the less expensive one.

Our long-range planning effort that we did in 2004 had a very intense focus group process, and I have two of our six focus groups listed here. The Freight and North East corridor group we were able to get FedEx, Amtrak, P&WRR, and Providence Port to participate, and discussed capacity on the North East corridor. The second focus group, Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. We got our emergency management people involved, as well as the state police, trucking association, Coast Guard, ITS community and bridge and turnpike authority. We talked about such issues as HAZMAT and bridge clearances. I think we were successful in getting good participation, because we only asked for a commitment of three meetings from each of these people.

Another effort that we finished in 2006 was the freight planning needs assessment. Realizing what our staff and budget limitations are, what can and should we be doing as part of our freight planning program. These activities we listed are ongoing and we have areas we would like to improve, and do better on. That last bullet, we have a designated point of contact, Walter Solcomb is the freight coordinator. Before I finish, I would like to let you know the documents I talked about are on our website. The TIP will be replaced with the new versions. But I will now hand off to Steve to talk about a project borne out of the elect riff cages of the North East corridor.

Steve Devine:

Thank you. As Katherine mentioned, this project, locally known as freight rail improvement plan, was quite a challenge to Rhode Island DOT, primarily a highway and bridge infrastructure department at the time when this started in the mid-90s. It presented quite a challenge in terms of dealing with essentially a railroad project, which we did not have all that much experience in.

We have learned a lot over the years on such issues as track design, construction, being on the Amtrak North East corridor, indemnification, liability issues, which I will say continue to haunt us as we continue to expand commuter rail on the corridor, and other operational issues. This graphic isn't the best quality, trying to give you the lay of the land, this is the Providence metropolitan area, the freight rail improvement project is a 22-mile area extending from the Boston switch, Central Falls, Rhode Island, at the Massachusetts line, moving South to Providence, downtown, working South by TF Green airport in Warwick, and extending down to Davisville, an industrial park, major employer and traffic generator in the state of Rhode Island.

The project itself included 12-miles of brand-new track along Amtrak's main line. In Rhode Island, for those of you unfamiliar with the North East corridor, this is their main line from Boston to Washington D.C., it is electrified, can travel up to 150 mph, in the bottom of the graphic, you see the North East corridor, that is one of the rare places it is tangent track, straight. They travel up to 150 mph through the state.

Integrating higher and wider freight presented a challenge in mixing with the 150 mph Amtrak trains, in addition to our own commuter rail trains we have planned for South of Providence. The project included five miles of upgraded track north of Providence, to the Massachusetts line, separate freight track we upgraded to today's standards.

The project is a middle five miles where we share track with Amtrak on their main lines because of historical and other environmental issues we were not able to provide a separate track through the East Greenwich area, many trees were cut in order to accommodate the freight trains.

Funding for the project was a mixture. Primarily FRA 50/50 funding for track rehabilitation, mostly on the track that already did exist north of Providence to the Massachusetts line. It was 50 FRA and 50% state matching funds, the voters of Rhode Island overwhelmingly approved in a bond referendum. We used considerable federal highway funds for the planning, environmental impact statement, design, and a lot of bridge clearance work, whether it was rehabbing a bridge, raising, undercutting, through the use of federal highway funds. Again, state matching funds were provided for the 50% and 20% federal highway. We used a unique funding mechanism, through the Garvey process where we are essentially up-fronting federal funds in order to advance critical major projects in the state. This was considered a critical project due to its economic importance, in keeping freight rail competitive, which gets into my next slide.

You see photos on the left-hand side, the electricity cages we have continuous welded rail, concrete ties, coincidentally made it very attractive for other types of rail service, particularly commuter rail service, I will get into that in a second. This provided operational flexibility for the freight. It's separating them from Amtrak's high-speed rail, and when high-speed rail was introduced through the northeast corridor, levels of service increased dramatically, now 34 trips per day up and down the corridor, expected to increase to 52 over the next 10 years, I believe. There's a definite need for this project and again, as I mentioned, it provided us at DOT an opportunity to look at benefits for commuter rail. I think long term we are looking at this as the start of, first segment of ultimately expansion of the corridor, from Boston to New York, Connecticut, could be the first section of a third track. There's an MPTA, Massachusetts Transportation Authority. We have talked to them about commuter rail service, about an hour train ride. The photo you see is a train passing by the state house in Providence. The graphic on the right is the new planned train station and consolidated rental car facility planned for TF Green airport, on the far right. Facility on the left connected by a sky walk, and moving sidewalks. That's a major component to our transportation, providing transportation to an ever-increasingly congested corridor.

In conclusion, the freight track provided extensive flexibility, not only for freight, there was obvious passenger benefits to the project, which we, Rhode Island DOT specifically, since we paid for 100% of it, total of $200 million project, we intend on taking advantage of, and one of the biggest markets down there at West Davisville. The auto carriers, the park continues to grow, significantly increasing car carriers that would have been on trucks, being hauled on the highway system are now being hauled by freight rail along this track, the northeast corridor to points West through Massachusetts. So, it's been a very successful project for us and one that we look to continue expansion in the future. I think that concludes our presentation, Katherine and I would be happy to answer questions you have as we conclude the webinar. Thank you.


J. Symoun:

Thank you very much. I hope everybody enjoyed this presentation, as well as the other two. Right now I only see one question typed in, actually two, and some discussion about data collection. The first question, but please feel free to continue to type in questions, and then we will open the phone lines.

The first question, for Libby, the question was sent privately, I'm not sure if you saw it, what do you mean by freight implementation strategies?

L. Ogard:

I guess the way we defined it in the project is how do you take a freight project, integrate it into either the TIP or get it programmed into a freight project? So, how do we take a freight idea or concept or project, and move it from a visioning stage through the funding, plan, execution, design phase, build? That's what how I would help define that.

J. Symoun:

Okay, thank you. The next question, I will put out to all presenters, any of you doing this, have experience that would add freight survey to the data collection process for the traveled demand forecast model for urban areas? I know there have been discussions in the chat area about that, but I wanted to put that out to the presenters, to see if you have experience in this area.

S. Devine:

Rhode Island does not have any experience in that.

R. Martinko:

One of the key issues in developing an intermodal site, when we work with the railroads, they want a commodity flow study, looking, what they tell us, in a 50-mile radius of the area, they want to know by zip code the commodities moving in, moving identity, developers that may move in to use an intermodal site, develop a distribution warehouse, that information is really hard to get we find our researchers have to make phone calls to the private shippers to get that information because, really, that's proprietary to them. It's hard to get a good commodity flow study. We are doing one right now, hope to have it done in January, want to use it as a marketing tool for our strategy geography to attract, maybe NS or Canadian national to put another intermodal yard in it this area. That's the experience here at the university, and we are trying to develop a detailed commodity flow study for our area in Toledo.

J. Symoun:

Thank you. We have another question, Rich, I believe for you. Is the TRAC investment policy part of the TIP process for all projects or freight-related only?

R. Martinko:

It's for all major projects, defined as capacity improvement or major improvement, has to be approved by the TRAC. There's a project sponsor. Many times the MPO is the project sponsor, developing a list of priority projects, and typically their number one project will be something they go down, make a presentation on, in front of TRAC, as well as the scoring. Although, for example, the Toledo region, may be the number one priority for the Toledo region, but when all the projects come in, scored, it's possible the project in a certain region, because of funding and priorities, may not get funded the first year. All major projects go through TRAC, not just freight.

J. Symoun:

The next question is for Steve. How hard was it to get Amtrak to share track with freight and how will this be coordinated?

S. Devine:

I could spend a couple hours on that. In the northeast corridor, Amtrak owns the majority of the track between Boston and Washington. When they run -- being my understanding, they run outside the northeast corridor, they run on predominantly freight-owned track. A lot of what's required from those freights when Amtrak runs on their corridors, Amtrak requires from others who run on the northeast corridor, which they pretty much own. It's been a long, diff situation, and I want -- I think on the technical side, the plan side, the design side, we have a great relationship with Amtrak, both for that project and the our project for commuter rail South of Providence. It's more when you get into the other issues, I mentioned liability and indemnification, when you run on Amtrak's lines you pay an access fee for maintenance of the track. Trying to do the best we can, not being a railroad, predominantly railroad department. So it definitely has had challenges but I am happy to report on the commuter rail end we are close to an agreement with Amtrak.

J. Symoun:

Following up with that question, a related question, is Amtrak power provided through overhead catenaries or third rails and would that interfere with freight car clearances? How does this compare to what is used for the commuter rail in Rhode Island?

S. Devine:

It is overhead, their electrification. High and wide freight requires a clearance of 22 feet something inches, the wires are below that. So that really drove the whole concept of this freight project. The railroad, has operating rights on the northeast corridor. There were plans for a major expansion of this, there was inherently a conflict on the corridor. To get round that was to create the third rail and I am trying to look at the follow-up question. The commuter rail is a diesel operated rail system, a push-pull, it is not electrified. It has no plans to go electric at this point, while they are encouraged by Amtrak to switch to electric to increase their acceleration ability. As more tracks use the corridor, the commuter rail needs to pick up its acceleration, but it is not in their budget and we have no plans for electric. We will use MBTA commuter service, their existing diesel equipment.

J. Symoun:

Thank you. We have another question, for all presenters, what recommendations would you make for the next federal transportation reauthorization. Libby?

L. Ogard:

One of the most interesting surveys I did was with a large MPO whose greatest frustration was there was no dedicated freight funding pot of money for freight projects. It seemed very difficult to go through a specialized freight plan, stand-alone freight plan, if you will, if there was no dedicated funding source at the end of the process in other words in order to apply or develop projects to be realized. I think that that's probably one of the most significant needs out there. The second one is a standardization of performance measures. As we look at the trend that we are all seeing moving toward public/private partnerships, the ability to be able to look at a project, quantify the economic benefits and costs, how each of the stakeholders, benefits from it, across a multi-jurisdictional corridor. You can look at similar metrics for the entire project.

R. Martinko:

I will build on what Libby said. In my opinion the reason there isn't a stand-alone pot of freight money, because the railroads are a private entity, therein lies the problem. What we need to do is have a national rail policy, not unlike the national transportation policy, where the rails get -- I don't want to use the word regulated, but there needs to be recognition of the standard of performance, how the national policy for rail to get integrated. Each railroad operates as its own entity as far as standards, metrics. The performance measure issue, I will take that a step back, instead of with freight, in Ohio we had what's called OPIs, organizational performance indices. They grade, score, how the maintenance is -- and freight projects are dependent on how much money you have to spend to maintain your operation. 80% of your transportation budget typically goes to maintaining existing infrastructure. If you can keep that infrastructure in good shape, because the decline of infrastructure is like exponential curve. Once it gets over the hump it degrades exponentially. How you maintain greatly effects the amount of money you have for other projects. Freight, major new capacity, all of that stuff. There needs to be an organizational performance index standard somewhat recognized across the states. That's what I would advocate.

K. Trapani:

Off the top of my head, I think everyone agrees we need more money, I don't need to say that. But we need a mechanism for a regional rail authority, especially in the northeast, small states, New England and New York would be a good start, but asking the mid-Atlantic would be something I would look at adding.

S. Devine:

Just being involved in Amtrak's northeast corridor master plan process going on now, hearing a lot of options, alternatives for what happens to Amtrak or high speed rail on the North East coming out of Washington, I 100% agree with Katherine. We do need to be together, at least as the northeast states through the corridor. This corridor is really so essential, vital to moving goods and people in this heavily urbanized and populated area. It's an asset and needs to be protected and if ultimately long-term Amtrak is not the proper mechanism for its continued upkeep, then something else needs to be done, and I think that's some kind of consortium or authority of the states up here.

J. Symoun:

Thank you. Next question, I will put this out to all presenters, are you aware of any resources for freight village planning? Any one of you who might be aware can just jump in.

R. Martinko

I will say the only thing I am aware of this, I've seen some freight village planning resources, but really haven't culled through in detail, that's all I am aware of. There's stuff out there, but I'm not intimate with it.

S. Devine:

We are not aware of that concept here in Rhode Island.

L. Ogard:

I guess I would reply that this seems to be more or less the purview of a lot of these large developers that are out there. Part of what it comes down to, the message for this group, this program, we need to be very mindful of land use planning, as well as how we are zoning areas and where the freight is moving to next. One of the things we have seen in Chicago in the last five to seven years, the suburbanization of freight, a certain drag on productivity, in order to get to the scale, size they need to be to achieve productivity goals need to be in the suburb an environment, not only because of size, they can get in, out, predictably, reliably. With the change in fuel prices the jury is a little bit out of how far you can be out in suburbia before you start paying for that benefit in increased fuel to make deliveries I think we are on the cusp of significant changes. I would see the play from state DOT, and MPO, to look at land use policy, zoning, how that impacts great development, how attractive you would be to any of these large developers, recognizing the key component they are all looking for is access, and where the nodes of not only rail, air, highway come together, but how does this access, lead to their overall performance.

R. Martinko:

To build on that, this is Rich, the zoning issue, land use is a difficult issue to struggle with. You have a chance at it in an urban area where you have a planning commission, MPO involved. In Ohio, with a lot of farm land, outreach areas, you have township trustees, and I make no judgment against them, but their job is a farmer, in charge of zoning, planning in a township, not part of an MPO, sometimes the decisions that get made about land use and zoning are made because of lack of information and expertise. I guess I would challenge the DOTs, MPOs and places like the University of Toledo to help educate, inform and work with all the people in charge of land use and zoning. It's a critical aspect of it. I don't know whether others have struggled with that, but I see that here in the Midwest.

J. Symoun:

Thank you. We don't have anything else typed in, but have a few minutes, we can see if there are questions on the phone, Amy can you give instructions?


We will begin the Question and Answer session, if you would like to ask a question, press star 1. To withdraw your request, press star 2. One moment for the first question.

L. Ogard:

While waiting, I am going back to something the University of Toledo said, talk more with respect to about the question about the freight village planning. It comes back to understanding freight and freight flows in your region, to understand if you are in a good place to justify or be able to be successful in establishing a freight village. Part of that is to really understand what is the freight village's function within the local region economy? So who are the primary drivers, primary consumers, are you in a production region, distribution region? How will that freight village function to support that underlying economy? To be sure that the types of industries and types of businesses located in that freight village have a link and connection to the regional economy so it builds, adds continued value to that area. That's one of the, I think, hardest things to look at. Say how would trade flows change if we put this freight village in place, and how could we use the freight village to not only create jobs, but attract more and different types of jobs to the region?

J. Symoun:

Thank you. We will go ahead and close out today, since there are no more questions Before I close out I want to give brief mention to the peer-to-peer program. This program puts public sector freight transportation professionals in touch with experts in the field and provides technical assistance in order to enhance overall freight skills and knowledge. The program is available to public entities, including State departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). To learn more about the program or to arrange a peer exchange, or to discuss participating as a peer/expert please visit the Freight Peer to Peer web site.

With that, I would like to thank all four presenters for a great seminar, great presentations and good questions. Thank you, everybody for attending. The recording will be available within the next few weeks. The next seminar will be held on August 20 and will be on Rising Fuel Prices and the Effects of Energy Prices on Global Trade Patterns. 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: 10/20/2015
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