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The Strategic Multimodal Analysis - Task 3: Chicago-New York City Corridor Analysis - Final Report


1.1 Strategic Multimodal Analysis Framework

The freight movements between and within urban areas are one of the fastest growing components of travel. Forecasters predict freight volumes will increase 70 percent by 2020 relative to 1998. That growth will occur across a multi-modal transportation system that is already experiencing congestion and reduced mobility.

The Strategic Multimodal Analysis (SMA) project applies a multimodal approach to assessing and analyzing deficiencies in the freight transportation system and measuring the benefits of potential options for addressing them. The SMA project will improve the understanding of the impacts of freight bottlenecks to Interstate commerce and will develop a framework for estimating the impacts of improvements to the nation's multimodal transportation system. The SMA project will focus on highway, rail and water options for freight movement.

While many look to the railroads to carry additional traffic in congested highway corridors, previous studies have indicated that rail is a viable option for only a limited portion of truck traffic. The amount and type of traffic that might shift to rail would vary depending on cost and service differences between rail and truck. Factors motivating private railroads to lower cost and improve service, however, are different than factors motivating the public sector to invest in transportation capacity and service improvements. The private sector is motivated primarily by return on investment and will not make improvements unless they are certain of getting an acceptable rate of return. Railroads, thus, do not always have strong incentives to try to attract additional traffic if the additional traffic would require an investment in equipment and/or capacity and profit margins on that traffic are low. Margins on intermodal traffic generally are lower than margins on other traffic, and if accommodating additional intermodal traffic adversely affected service for the higher-margin traffic, railroads might not invest to attract the additional intermodal traffic. Public agencies, of course, also are concerned that benefits of their projects exceed the costs, but they may consider factors that a private firm would not, such as regional economic development, reduction of air pollution, and other non-market factors.

Also, there is increasing recognition of the expanded role that water transportation may play in meeting certain freight transportation requirements, especially containerized shipments. Import and export containers through East Coast and West Coast ports are among the largest and fastest growing segments of freight transportation, but highways and rail facilities along each coast are among the most congested in the country. One possible solution is the use of short-sea shipping to transport freight by water from large ports to smaller ports closer to the freight's ultimate destination. Such short-sea shipping would by-pass congested highway and rail corridors up and down the coasts. Only a limited analysis has been done on the potential market for such movements, but they clearly need to be considered when examining options for meeting our increasing freight transportation demands.

While rail and water may be able to handle increasing shares of freight traffic in certain corridors, highways will continue to be the backbone of the freight transportation system. Operational improvements may be able to meet some of the increasing demand for truck transportation, but new highway capacity may also be necessary in some corridors.

The SMA modeling framework will be developed, calibrated and tested on a sample corridor. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the data available for the candidate corridor. The corridor chosen is the New York to Chicago corridor. This corridor encompasses large freight activity for all the land transportation modes; truck, rail and water.

1.2 Federal Role

The federal interest in interstate freight movements comes directly from the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 8. The Constitution establishes the power of Congress "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." The Eisenhower Interstate Highway system was created 50 years ago and one of its goals was to facilitate interstate commerce. In the 1980's when the country realized that state price regulations were impinging upon the free movement of trade across the United States, Congress de-regulated the industry.

Today most large cities and several whole corridors experience reduced mobility due to congestion on the Interstate system. As part of the mobility measurement the SMA project researched methods to measure the freight congestion. That research is published as An Initial Assessment of Freight Bottlenecks on Highways. The identified bottlenecks are estimated to cause 243,000,000 hours of delay. These bottlenecks impact interstate, regional and local interstate commerce. The SMA analysis focuses on the impacts of national policy changes with a goal to diminish freight bottlenecks.

1.3 Corridor Fact Gathering Task Objective

The primary objectives of this task are to define the corridor and gather and analyze the data necessary for modal analysis, including the characteristics of the transportation modal infrastructure and the freight movement along the corridor. Additionally, this task creates the "data library" or "source data" for the later tasks analyzing the benefits and costs of proposed transportation infrastructure investments. The corridor data include:

1.4 Organization of Report

The infrastructure, freight movements, and operations within the corridor are organized and presented as follows:

1 Passenger movements are not independently modeled but only examined as they impact freight movements.

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