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Megaregions Research Conference Call - August 10, 2011



FHWA organized the call to provide an opportunity for lead researchers around the country to present past, current, and future megaregions research and identify commonalities between research tasks and opportunities for collaboration.


CQGRD has been involved in programs for megaregions for many years with a research focus on empirical assessment and economic agglomeration of cities within a U.S. megaregions context. Specific examples of current and upcoming work include:

CQGRD also was involved in the creation of the Piedmont Alliance for Quality Growth (PAQG), which is a mayor-led, informal group serving the Piedmont Atlantic megaregion. PAQG emerged from workshops that CQGRD held in cooperation with America 2050. PAQG has been successful at enhancing understanding about megaregions and gaining participation from the private sector; they have held four summits throughout the region. They are struggling with turnover of elected officials and hoping to expand participation to state agencies and chambers of commerce.


Please describe what types of databases you are researching.
We are trying to understand the private side of commodity movement using planning tools and data similar to those used by MPOs, with the goal of identifying future needs for data, tools, and models. The next step will be to examine two MPOs and evaluate software compatibility needs for coordinated long-range planning.

We are addressing the need to provide a common template for the many types of data that emerge in megaregions planning (specifically for freight commodity movement). GIS is a good format.

Volpe has an agreement for collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of Transport's research centre located on the campus of the Technical University in Delft. The agreement identifies topics of mutual interest, including inter-regional planning. There may be some possibilities for future collaboration with Georgia Tech and the university.

Robert Harrison, Donovan Johnson, and colleagues began working on megaregions at their Center for Transportation Research three years ago in response to interest in how Texas's large MPOs could accommodate predicted population growth. Their research focuses on a multi-state megaregion stretching from Houston to Louisiana, and a Texas Triangle megaregion, and includes consideration of:


How have stakeholders reacted?
All stakeholders have very positive reactions. Most are not receptive to adding another layer of government, but they are receptive to using existing structures and statewide planning process to bring about stronger land use practices to protect corridors. Railroads are a good model of efficient movement of freight along a corridor.

Duncan Stewart, from TxDOT, noted that factors that affect one metro area will also affect others, and that TxDOT is looking at freight at multiple levels, including megaregions.

Catherine Ross described a proposed paper for TRB in 2012 that uses GIS to show the impacts of suburbanization on locating warehouses. The study focuses on Atlanta and Paris but has lessons on corridors and commodity movements that are applicable elsewhere.

Megaregions planning in the Arizona Sun Corridor (Phoenix to Tucson metro areas) began with two initiatives:

The outcome was the Joint Planning and Advisory Council, which includes MAG, Pima Association of Governments (PAG), and the Central Arizona Association of Governments (CAAG). The three member organizations signed a formal agreement but their structure remains informal. Their joint Freight Framework Study considers megaregions freight issues as well as leveraging opportunities from Mexican ports. An outstanding question involves governance, and how to transition emerging megaregions initiatives. Other activities include a Global Cities Institute profile of the Sun Corridor, participation of the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University, participation in the Western High Speed Rail Alliance, and a proposal for a north-south multimodal corridor for Interstate 11.


There are many "conceptual" corridors representing gaps in our existing transportation network that need to be explored. Arizona has looked to I-73 and I-14 in the southeast U.S.

The USDOT's Volpe Center works with MPOs and DOTs both from the planning/research/policy side and the regulatory side through planning oversight and certification for FHWA and FTA. Volpe Center work related to megaregions began with a megaregions strategy on planning for major inter-regional projects prepared as part of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's 2040 Vision Plan for the metro area. Their work also included organizing a workshop on inter-regional planning/megaregions with the Dutch ministry, focusing on US and Dutch experiences, including planning for the Antwerp and Rotterdam corridors, and the Port of Rotterdam. The Volpe Center worked with FHWA and 10 TRB committees to organize and facilitate a half-day workshop on megaregions at TRB in 2009. The workshop included recommendations for future TRB research initiatives, which led to creation of a new Mega-regions sub-committee. Volpe staff actively participates in this group, which also organized two megaregions sessions at TRB in 2011 and issued a call for papers for 2012 and will organize related sessions.

The Volpe Center is completing a white paper for FHWA focusing on how MPOs and their partners participate in planning for megaregions, building on the foundation of their formally-defined roles and responsibilities in federal legislation. The paper includes seven case studies and a framework for successful MPO participation with their partners. The FHWA and Volpe Center presented early results of the white paper as part of the 2011 TRB session on MPOs and Megaregions.

Atlanta now considers Savannah for all of its freight planning due to the importance of its port. Many MPO regions are planning cooperatively out of necessity, although it may be difficult to capture.

Supin Yoder described a project from FHWA's regulatory research program, which is a framework for megaregions analysis for modeling development. The purpose is to develop a proactive modeling tool that can address multidisciplinary issues for multiple scales projects, focusing on megaregions. The University of Maryland's Smart Growth Center is running the study, which will include a market analysis, facilities and freight movement, scenario and tool development, and a case study application. They will examine economic, land use, transportation, and indicator models. FHWA also plans to do a peer exchange to demonstrate the usability of the framework and tools.


The group supported future discussions and exploration of collaboration. FHWA and Volpe will organize a follow-up call to pick up on issues and opportunities not covered during this call.

Volpe will send out a call summary with links to each research group; participants should add any additional information or links.

Review of opportunities for long-term collaboration:

Other discussion notes:

Updated: 10/20/2015
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