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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-06-003 Vol. 69 No. 5    Date:  March/April 2006
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-003 Vol. 69 No. 5
Date: March/April 2006


Internet Watch

by Joanne Sedor

New Freight Site Tackles a Weighty Issue

The United States has long relied on the fast and reliable delivery of freight to fuel the Nation's economy, and this trend shows no signs of stopping. Economic forecasts indicate, for example, that by 2020, freight volumes will be 70 percent greater than they were in 1998. Although this type of growth in freight shipments benefits the economy, it also places increasing stress on the U.S. transportation system.

To meet the Nation's needs for moving freight in the coming years, government agencies and the transportation industry need to plan for and invest in infrastructure and operational improvements. Federal, State, and local transportation practitioners need accurate forecasts of commodity and traffic flows and access to the latest forecasting models and analysis tools to ensure that appropriate investments and improvements are made.

A new Web site managed by the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Freight Management and Operations aims to provide exactly this type of information. Sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, and Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the new "Freight Model Improvement Program" (FMIP) Web site (www.fmip.gov) provides comprehensive information on state-of-the-art freight forecasting and analysis models and assists in applying these models to transportation planning and policy at all levels of Government.

"The FMIP Web site provides a unique opportunity for the transportation community to share methods for monitoring and forecasting freight activity, identify needed improvements, and mobilize vendors, consultants, and government agencies to improve upon today's state-of-the-art freight modeling practices," says Tianjia Tang, project manager for FHWA's Freight Analysis Framework, which is one of the many modeling tools used today by freight specialists.

News and Events

FHWA divided the site into several sections, all of which are easily accessible from links at the top of the homepage. In the news section, users will find the latest information on the freight industry and upcoming training sessions, courses, workshops, and conferences. This section also includes announcements and updates on freight projects and publications. Further, users can submit their own news items for posting through the Web site's discussion board.

A Model Section

Site users can gain a better understanding of the state of modeling practices by clicking on links to various studies about freight models. The models evaluated vary in scale and cover a range of geographies, from local and regional to statewide and national. For example, a link to metropolitan and local modeling studies, enables users to download reports about freight models used in Sarasota, FL, Baltimore, MD, and Portland, OR.

A Data Depository

Models are no better than the data upon which they are based, making the availability and quality of freight data an especially important issue among freight specialists. The data section of the "FMIP" site features an array of existing freight data, such as commodity movements, classifications, origins, and destinations. Economic activity data also are accessible, including data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

A Complete Toolbox

The tools section of the Web site houses information about various modeling techniques and tools used in forecasting freight and passenger movements. Links direct users to a number of resources, including FHWA's Freight Analysis Framework (FAF), a tool for estimating commodity flows and related freight transportation activities. Another link takes users to the State version of the Highway Economic Requirements System (HERS) model, which FHWA created to help State departments of transportation develop highway investment programs and policies that maximize economic benefits relative to costs. In addition to the FAF and HERS models, the site offers links to the Geofreight Intermodal Freight Display Tool and the Center for Transportation Analysis' Transportation Network.

People Are Talking

While much of the "FMIP" Web site serves as a location for users to download data, the discussion board is a dynamic feature that enables users to post comments or questions about freight modeling. Because many hot topics often are vetted through the discussion board, users can post items and participate in discussions anonymously, although FHWA encourages everyone to register and log into the site to help foster collaboration and information sharing.

The new 'Freight Model Improvement Program' Web site, shown here, includes links to freight planning tools.
The new "Freight Model Improvement Program" Web site, shown here, includes links to freight planning tools.

"The discussion board is open to everyone interested in freight modeling, including members of both the public and private sectors," says Tony Furst, director of FHWA's Office of Freight Management and Operations. "We hope that the board will not only be a place where users can engage in intelligent discussions, but also a place where users can explore new ideas, create new partnerships, and discover new opportunities."

For more information, visit www.fmip.gov or contact Tianjia Tang at 202-366-2217 or tianjia.tang@fhwa.dot.gov.




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