Online Research and Literature Review

The research team also conducted internet research and a literature review to identify other potential mode shift case study examples. Key resources examined included the:

  • American Association of Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) publications;
  • Transportation Research Board’s Transportation Research Record;
  • Reports and studies identified in the research team’s technical proposal;
  • U.S. Department of Transportation freight-related websites and publication achieves; and
  • Studies and reports published online by other State DOTs and private industry organizations.

The following section summarizes key documents reviewed and case study candidates identified.

The Case for Capacity: To Unlock Gridlock, Generate Jobs, Deliver Freight, and Connect Communities (AASHTO 2010)

In 2010, AASHTO published a study entitled, “The Case for Capacity: To Unlock Gridlock, Generate Jobs, Deliver Freight, and Connect Communities” and a series of companion reports entitled, “The Case for Freight,” which explored the issue of freight capacity and identified a number of transportation and freight-related improvement projects across the countries that are candidates for further study under NCFRP 44. The following provides a brief summary of the 2010 report, and identifies potential mode shift case study projects. A later section of this chapter reviews “The Case for Freight” documents. The AASHTO study describes the future of the Interstate Highway System and the growing importance of freight as a generator of major traffic and economic development. Specifically, the report addressed four major topics:

  • The growing freight demand;
  • Competitiveness in the global economy;
  • The impacts of congestion on economic development; and
  • What needs to be done to keep freight on the move?

AASHTO found that the need to move more freight across the country and the world would increase significantly in the 21st century. Over the next 40 years, experts project freight tonnage to double from 15 billon tons a day to 30 billion tons in 2050. The four major drivers of freight demand include:

  • Consumption - Forecasts call for the U.S. population to grow from 308 million in 2010 to 420 million in 2050
  • ProductionDespite a forecasted decline in manufacturing employment, growth in the service sector and an increase in technology investments will increase manufacturing output and growth in goods production.  This growth in goods production creates an increased demand for transportation of raw materials, parts and finished products.
  • TradeForecasts call for the value of U.S. exports and imports to grow from between 4.2 and 5.8 percent annually. This growth will increase the freight traffic traveling through the country’s transportation system.
  • Supply Chain ManagementBusinesses are moving toward an “on-demand” supply chain where they reduce and centralize their inventory at fewer locations. In the past, customers and business would tolerate delays in shipments, they now require immediate processing and tracking from origin to destination.

The study concludes that the current capacity of the U.S. network of road, rail and ports is not keeping pace with increases in demand. The nation’s infrastructure is aging and experiencing usage levels beyond its intended design. Highways are experiencing congestion at peak hours, which causes delays for truckers, business travelers and commuters. Bottlenecks along regional and transcontinental freight routes are creating “corridors of congestion instead of corridors of commerce.” For example, estimates of truck hours of delay for the nation’s worst freight bottlenecks indicate that each of the top ten highway interchange bottlenecks result in over one million truck-hours of delay per year; at a cost of $19 billion.

Researchers examined that the freight transportation system affects economic development, job growth and quality of life in communities. An estimated 10 million people work in the freight transportation industry. Congestion, idling and at-grade rail crossings are detrimental to air quality and negatively impact the daily lives of people and business operations. For example, Lamar, a city with a population of only 9,000 along the Ports-to-Plans Corridor in Colorado, experiences daily congestion attributed to semi-truck traffic.

The study prescribes the following actions to cope with the growing freight demand and its effect on communities:

  • Expand the Interstate Highway capacity by adding new lanes lines to the National Highway System, truck-only toll facilities, and areas around key ports and intermodal facilities;
  • Develop a national freight program and strategic plan that fosters collaboration between multi-state corridor organizations at all levels of government; and
  • Invest in multimodal connector improvements, and increase collaboration between states, railroads and public-private partnerships.

In reviewing the AASHTO report, the research team identified several potential case studies of freight mode shift:

  1. Heartland Corridor, Ohio: This five-year effort culminated in the clearing of 29 tunnels and other overhead obstacles to allow double-stack rail cars to travel through Ohio and westward. The sponsors projected that the project would reduce travel for double-stacked trains between Columbus, Ohio and Norfolk, Virginia by 300 miles.
  2. Duluth Intermodal Project, Minnesota: This project upgrades the port, rail and bridge infrastructure that serves as a major transfer point for intermodal shipments from ports to facilities in Minnesota and throughout the country.
  3. Port of Lewiston, Idaho: This port, the furthest inland port on the West Coast, serves exports from Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. Eighty-five percent of the regions’ wheat, peas and lentils are bound for overseas. The project will revamp the over 30-year old container dock, and reroute Idaho State Highway 128 to improve truck and intermodal connectivity.
  4. The FAST Corridor, Washington State: This corridor project involves freight-mobility and traffic enhancements sponsored by the State DOT, Port Authorities and the Puget Sound Regional Council. It involves raising roadways above at-grade crossings. The project will reduce delays caused by rail crossings, which amounted to an estimated 270 hours per day in 2010.
  5. Memphis Regional Intermodal Facility, Norfolk Southern Railroad Crescent Corridor, New Jersey to Louisiana: This multimodal facility is a component of a large, multi-state and multi-agency project along the Norfolk Southern Railroad’s Crescent Corridor, which spans 2,500 miles from New Jersey to Memphis and on to New Orleans. Partners are working to create several regional intermodal freight distribution centers.

NCHRP 08-26: “Guidance to Foster Collaborative, Multi-modal Decision Making: The Case for Freight (NCHRP 2006)”

The 2006 NCHRP Report, “Guidance to Foster Collaborative, Multi-modal Decision Making: The Case for Freight” presented the results of the research of three successful freight transportation projects. The objective of the study was to provide insight on how to complete complex, intermodal projects through partnerships among public agencies and industry.

The report identifies the following characteristics of successful intermodal freight collaborations:

  • The project is planned by involving institutions that have fostered relationships developed over five to ten years.
  • The project creates localized effects but distributed benefits.
  • The project requires capital needs that exceed the financial resources of any one organization.
  • The project occurs in areas of concentrated freight volumes
  • The project occurs in locations of major freight gateways and corridors in metropolitan areas.

The report traces these drivers of intermodal freight projects by exploring successful mode projects. Three key examples highlighted include:

Shellpot Bridge, Wilmington Delaware: In 1994, Contrail closed the Shellpot Bridge, a vital freight-rail link between the Christina River and the port, and the Maryland and Delaware portions of the Delmarva region. Rail traffic on the bridge was less than 20,000 carloads annually.  Both Norfolk Southern (NS) and CSX Corporation (CSX) continued rail service to the port via an indirect route. Eventually NS took ownership of the bridge, but did not rehabilitate it due to financial constraints. In 2002, a partnership was formed between the Delaware DOT (DelDOT), NS, the Port, shippers and carriers, and city and county agencies to plan and facilitate total rehabilitation of the Shellpot bridge, the connecting rail lines and rail yard.  The bridge spanned 725 feet and the rail line was equipped with bar code readers and other equipment to allow counting of cars.  Shellpot Bridge became the first railroad toll bridge in the country. In 2005, one year after project completion, over 100,000 carloads moved across the bridge.  The goods movement exceeded NS’s forecasts by 300 percent.  Observers attributed the increased traffic to increased movement of construction materials from southern Delaware, increased business from shippers and new customers at the port, and rerouting of existing rail traffic to the more direct line.

The Kansas City Flyovers: Between 1995 and 2005, public-private partnerships completed three projects in Kansas City including the Sheffield Flyover, the Argentine Connection and the High Line Bridge. Collectively known as the Kansas City Flyovers, these projects were the product of a collaboration designed to address truck and passenger traffic congestion and improve rail service in the region.  The Kansas City Terminal Railroad, the member railroads and agencies in Kansas and Missouri formed an organization called the Kansas City Intermodal Corporation (KCITC).  In 2000, KCITC successfully completed the Sheffield Flyover, which created an elevated bridge over its existing track on the east side of the city.  Rail congestion had reduced train speeds through the area to 15 and 20 miles per hour. In addition to train delays, the at-grade rail crossing posed safety issues and created congestion for residents and businesses in the area.  In 2000, the project was completed and train speeds increased from 15 to 50 miles per hour. The flyovers collectively reduced delays for over 250 trains per day.  The project also improved overall congestion for businesses and residents, and reduced air pollution. Because of Sheffield Flyover’s success, the KCITC undertook two additional flyover projects, the Argentine Connection and High Line Bridge, which produced similar benefits for the freight industry and the public. Following completion of the two projects, train volume increased from 80 to 120 per day.

The FAST Corridor: The Puget Sound Regional Council organized a Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable that incorporated public and private organizations, including community groups and freight industry representatives, in long-range freight planning for the north-south transportation corridors of the region. This group identified impediments to freight movements and developed a capital project improvements program called the Freight Action Strategy for Seattle/Tacoma/Everett, or the FAST Corridor. The first phase of the FAST project included 15 rail-highway grade crossings and projects to improve port access. The FAST project completed nine of the projects by 2005.  This ongoing partnership completed nearly 20 projects by the end of 2013.

Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, “Bi-State Domestic Freight Ferries Study (Port Authority of New York & New Jersey 2006)”

This 2006 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey study examined the feasibility of freight ferries as alternatives to truck movements crossing the Hudson River by existing bridge or tunnel. The study found that although shifting freight to direct rail or barging could reduce truck movements, trucking would remain the main component of the regional goods movement system and traffic.  The research focused specifically on the impact of intra-harbor ferries and domestic freight that trucks would typically transport.  The study’s three major findings are:

  • Regulations or policies restricting truck movements for safety, security or environmental concerns would be essential to foster future markets for freight ferry services in the region.
  • Catering efforts to develop a niche market is the best starting point.
  • The benefits of such policies and a resulting thriving ferry service could include increased service efficiency, and new emergency service routes.

Victoria Transport Policy Institute, “Freight Transport Management: Increasing Commercial Vehicle Transport Efficiency (Victoria Transport Policy Institute 2014)”

In August 2013, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) published an article in the TDM Encyclopedia entitled, “Freight Transport Management: Increasing Commercial Vehicle Transport Efficiency.” The article discusses various strategies that can improve the efficiency of freight operations by providing other freight mode options, creating incentives to use the most efficient mode, increasing load factors and reducing shipping distances.  Potential case studies identified include:

  • “City Logistic” projects in Germany: A partnership between the cities, chambers of commerce, manufacturers and shippers set up trans-shipment facilities located outside over 80 different cities to coordinate delivery services and reduce trips.  Shipments from several sources, but bound for the same destination in the city, arrive at these warehouses for consolidation.
  • “Pooled Shipping” projects at the Port of Vancouver: The facility will pool rail carloads of grain arriving at the Port of Vancouver irrespective of the originating railway and grain company terminal to reduce congestion.
  • “Nunavut Express Container Service” by Nexus North, Inc.: This demonstration project involves a new intermodal container express service connecting Winnipeg and Thompson with the Port of Churchill. The service consists of collecting container cargo in Winnipeg and then pulling a flatcar behind a passenger service train. The project enables intermodal efficiencies by utilizing self-loading container chassis technology, which transfers marine containers to and from different modes (e.g. truck flatcars, rail flatcars, barges).

Analysis of TIGER grant application program evaluation database

Another project selection tool used by the research team was the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant application program evaluation database. Jack Faucett Associates, Inc. (JFA) developed this database for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of an ongoing evaluation of the TIGER grant program. The TIGER database contains detailed information on some 200 successful TIGER grant applications. About two-thirds of these applications were for freight projects. The US DOT’s selection criteria for the TIGER grant program required an equitable regional project distribution with inclusion of rural projects covering all freight modes.

The research team examined each of the projects in the TIGER database to screen for projects that encourage mode shift, and those that already influence mode choice. In examining the detailed descriptions of the projects, the first step was to eliminate any non-freight projects. The second step was to eliminate any freight projects that only involved truck movements. This process resulted in 59 projects for further review. The third step was to eliminate any projects that did not have a mode shift purpose, such as a project that eliminated an at-grade rail crossing, but with the purpose of improving truck movements rather than shifting freight to rail. This third step reduced the number of relevant projects to 45.

Tables 47 to 50 list each of the remaining 45 projects, and identifies them by name, state, region, rural versus urban location, and mode (port, rail, truck, and bridge). The team also developed a shortened summary description of each project, focusing on the aspects related to mode shift.

The table lists the projects separately by TIGER year. Since the TIGER program originated in 2009, many of these projects will not yet be in service.  However, grantees have completed many of the earlier projects, and are putting more into service every day. In addition, many of the TIGER projects are part of larger long-term projects. For example, Project #141 advances Maine’s Three-Port Strategy, a long-term strategy developed in 1978 to concentrate state investments in deep-water port facilities. Examples of major long-term mode shift projects that have received TIGER grants include:

  • Alameda Corridor (Projects 101 and 251)
  • Marine Highway (Projects 109, 250 and 412)
  • CREATE Program (Projects 110 and 407)
  • Crescent Corridor (Projects 111 and 331)
  • National Gateway Corridor (Project 129)
  • Heartland Corridor (Project 330)

Many of the other projects fall within three major types, with some overlap between types. The first group encompasses short-line railroads, individual rail lines and rail bridges. These include projects 103, 114, 135, 204, 213, 216, 228, 230, 257, 274, 321, 324, 327, 328, 336, 415, 430, and 440. The second group includes various port-related projects, and includes projects 141, 245, 252, 253, 329, 337, 431, 433, 434, 435, and 446. The third group includes various intermodal facilities, and includes projects 145, 310, 325, 411, and 441.

Table 47 Table 48 Table 49 Table 50

Analysis of AASHTO “The case for freight” reports (AASHTO 2010)

In 2010, AASHTO published a series of over 30 reports entitled, “The Case for Freight.”  Organized by state, these reports identify projects that could increase the capacity of the nation’s transportation system.  Specifically, AASHTO believes these projects will yield a range of benefits including increasing efficient movement of goods, stimulating economic development, creating improved access to energy, and connecting communities.  Figure 33 provides an example of a “Case for Freight” document.

Figure 33

AASHTO originally hosted the reports on the website,, which AASHTO subsequently deactivated.  The research team worked with the organization’s publication staff to obtain the documents from their archives. The research staff examined each of the 30 reports, and compiled a list of all of the featured projects. Many of the projects highlighted include those geared toward reducing truck traffic congestion and improving safety. To better fit the scope of this project, which focuses specifically on mode shift, the research team refined the list to include only those that created or facilitated mode shifts. Table 51 provides a summary of these projects.

Table 51

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