Kentucky Statewide Rail Plan

August 18th, 2014
2014 Kentucky Statewide Rail Plan Update          
The latest draft of the Kentucky Statewide Rail Plan is posted below and available for a 45-day comment period.  The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will accept comments from Friday, August 1st through Tuesday, September 16th by email, fax, or post mail.  Submit your comments to:
 
Casey Wells
KYTC Division of Planning
Freight, Rail, and Waterways Coordinator
 
Fax:  502-564-2865
Post:  200 Mero Street, Frankfort, KY 40622

Can Blazing Saddles Demostrate the NEPA Process

May 8th, 2014

When discussing transportation, there is always the issue of community involvement.  (FHWA has several good resources here on transportation capacity building and working with the public sector.)  However, it is often difficult to explain why the community should care about transportation investments within their area, including environmental issues.  The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) calls for Federal Agencies to address environmental concerns during the decision making process.  While many resources explaining the NEPA process, I think the Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President, “A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA” ranks among the best.

However, when explaining the need for communities to be engaged in transportation, I fall back to one of the great comedies. This week celebrates the 40th anniversary of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles”.   I often mention “Blazing Saddles” could be used to demonstrate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process at a local level.   You have to stay with me on this one and no, don’t take this too seriously…

We have a proposed project:  Building a Railroad through Rock Ridge

http://s.mcstatic.com/thumb/7747143/21155096/4/flash_player/0/1/blazing_saddles_1974_reunion_at_the_railroad.jpg?v=4

The railroad wants to align its tracks through the town Rock Ridge to avoid the quicksand.   Initially, Hedley Lamarr wants the population to move but the community protests the recent acts of terrorism.  In a town hall (community meeting), they appeal to the Governor for assistance.  (Yes, I know there was no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the movie.)

.

So, to drive the people to support the project (i.e., move) an outsider is sent into influence the situation. 

Hedley Lamarr hopes that Sheriff Bart will drive the people away, but instead the Sheriff rallies the people together in opposing the project.  An alternative is considered and built, although the original project supporters are not necessary away of this…

There is a huge fight over the project, but at the end, there was no resolution to the proposed project.

Once I explained this to someone, they said.  “Cool, but you forgot that at the end the consultant drove away in a Cadillac.”

In sum, Blazing Saddles matched against the NEPA process outlined in the Citizen’s Guide…

 

 

 

nepa and blazing saddles

Well, there you have it… Blazing Saddles and the NEPA process.  I am a big Mel Brooks’ fan so its always nice to revisit the “old” classics.  I hope you enjoyed my little editorial on the challenges of making freight transportation improvements!

“Groundhog’s Day” and Transportation (Lambert’s Langiappe- ITTS February 2014 Newsletter)

February 14th, 2014

Well, it’s February and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. According to legend, we should expect six more weeks of winter. Although groundhogs are not necessarily the best weather forecasters, based on recent winter storms, maybe the groundhog was right this year! Recent winter storms demonstrate just how dependent we have become on transportation. No matter the forecast, people expect to return home safely and to have their heating fuel delivered. For example, a January snowstorm crippled Atlanta, causing people to abandon their cars on stand-still highways. While severe, this was not an isolated case as most people can relate to being caught in some unexpected traffic situation.

But there exists another related reference. In the movie “Groundhog Day,” weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) repeats the same day over and over again. He cannot escape his purgatory until he shapes the perfect day, full of compassion and vigor, and in doing so, transforms himself. The transportation sector is similarly stuck in a “Groundhog Day ”-type situation. There appear to more winter days ahead of us, as system conditions and traffic congestion worsen, reminding us of the infrastructure’s fragility. Considering that the Highway Trust Fund may run out of moneys this year, the question that has plagued decision makers is how to “fix” infrastructure funding without raising taxes, tolling, or any other “inconvenience” to the driving public. (As often happens, inactivity today may create future inconveniences!) Unlike Phil Connors we recreate “Groundhog Day” during each reauthorization cycle, not only for highways, but for other infra-structure funding bills as well, unable to resolve our dilemma.

A clear vision regarding a “perfect” transportation system for our country in the next 40 years is truly needed.  But visioning will also require action, such as preparing for that future and identifying ever changing user needs. In the movie, Phil Connors learned to play the piano and speak French, which helped him achieve his transformation into a “new” man. Maybe by agreeing on a shared future, we will not return into our burrows, but will instead enjoy the warmth of an early spring.

Driving Ourselves Crazy – We Knew the Destination, But Can We Get There?

November 21st, 2013

When considering transportation projects, oftentimes there exists a disconnect between what we have already paid for and what we receiving now when we consider the gas tax.  Recently, the Gainesville Sun mentioned that with the infusion of general revenue funds, we are now living in a welfare transportation state.  This is a different take than the recently announced Transportation for America arguing that transportation development is a viable investment.  People do support transportation, but they are unsure if they will get what they are promised regarding transportation options.  (The majority of transportation initiatives passed in the November elections.) A 2011 Reason-Rupe survey, founds that most people want to invest in transportation, although they prefer tolls over increased taxes.

Well, the future “sell” for transportation maybe easier to make in 2015, especially if we have no new starts in the Federal Program in 2015 (based on Congressional Budget Office Testimony in July).

State Export Brochures – Linking Trade and Transportation

August 22nd, 2013

Given the emphasis on exports, I developed some short brochures on the importance exports for the ITTS member States.  These  charts can be used with the following PowerPoint slides on the importance of exports from each state, with an emphasis on maritime ports or could be used with the working paper on ports and state economies.  Many of these materials are also available the individual state freight portals  ITTS State Freight Pages.

itts export brochure image

Arkansas           Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

Florida               Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

Georgia             Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

Kentucky          Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

Louisiana          Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

Mississippi         Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

Virginia             Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

West Virginia    Export Brochure     Freight Profile page

ITTS Regional Total  Export Brochure

 

Maritime Trade Contributes to Every State’s Economy

August 16th, 2013

Here is a link to my working paper on international maritime trade through ports and the Economy.

There always remains a question of the value of international trade, especially through maritime ports, to the United States. Contemplating this question led to a recent ITTS working paper on ports and the economy. The paper focuses on the national and state benefits that derive from international trade through U.S. ports and the relationship of ports to inland markets. Tables reflecting each state’s top import and export commodities and international trading partners by vessel movement for 2012 are also included.

 

Frequently, the discussion on global markets, connectivity, and job growth takes place without the recognition that international trade in goods involves a physical shipment of a product. In 2012, international trade in goods accounted for 24% of the U.S. economy, as food, fuels, minerals, manufactured items, textiles, etc., flowed into and out of the United States. International trade is obviously a critical component of the U.S. economy, not just for coastal states, but for all states. Nationwide, maritime facilities accounted for 46% of trade based on value, making maritime trade the predominant mode for most businesses engaging in international trade, especially outside of the Canadian and Mexican (North American Free Trade Agreement) markets.

 

International traffic through a maritime port accounted for 11% of the nation’s GDP. For states without coastal port facilities, the estimated economic share of maritime trade was lower than the national average. For states in the Mountain West, this ranged from 1% to 4%. For most inland states, international trade through ports accounted for 5% to 10% of their economies. The true contribution may be
higher, since the nature of international shipments and global supply chains may negatively skew the value of maritime trade to these inland states. The role of ports is critical to economies in the southeastern U.S., where maritime trade accounts for over 10 percent of most state economies.

 

International trade will remain a critical, and growing, component of the U.S. economy, as highlighted by the National Export Initiative and the push for more trade agreements. Improving
trade, including trade through the nation’s maritime system and its linkages to inland markets, can provide economic opportunities to U.S. firms. However, as with most infrastructure in the United States, this “highway on-ramp” to global prosperity is in need of attention, as “potholes” can disrupt our transportation system and the economy. The nation’s infrastructure requires constant and secure funding, not only for ports and their associated dredging and infrastructure needs, but also for the corridors that link ports with inland markets.

 

Key Points:
1. Every state in the U.S. depends upon maritime trade.
2. As trade grows, so too does the importance of ports to handle this trade, creating jobs in port areas.
3. The growth in ports also requires strong connections to inland markets to ensure that U.S. goods are competitively priced in world markets. This supports/creates jobs for many different industries and modes throughout the nation, just not in port areas.

Some related links that may help in understanding this issue…

Two AASHTO Webinars on Waterways

June 18th, 2013

To all, if you are interested in discussing some of the Water Transportation issues, there are two webinars this week.

The theme of the SCOWT meeting is “Making the Case for Maritime in State DOTs.”  We encourage you to forward this link along to your colleagues in your respective DOT’s who may not necessarily be familiar with the marine transportation network, but might be quite interested in understanding how its operational challenges relate directly to the ability to operate highway networks for freight mobility.

 

Webinar 1:  Thursday, June 20th  1:00 PM EST – The AASHTO Waterborne Freight Bottom Line Report

Next in the series of AASHTO’s freight bottom line reports, SCOWT is pleased to release the Waterborne Freight Bottom line report, a comprehensive examination of the national marine transportation network, how it is a critical driver of freight mobility, and alternatives for action on how it must be maintained and improved for future economic competitiveness.  The report is also a critical education tool for advancing the Water Resources Development Act currently being debated in Congress.

Website:                     www.startvisuals.com

Conference ID:           8563828

Dial In:                        1-866-299-7945

Passcode:                    8563828#

 

Webinar 2:  Friday, June 21st  10:00 AM EST – Marine Navigation Impacts on State DOT’s

The marine transportation system moves tons of freight worth billions every year.  But what happens when it faces critical delays and infrastructure failures?  That freight moves onto highways and rail.  This session will examine how modal diversion and congestion must be planned for when the marine transportation system faces inevitable crises.

  • Alan Meyers, PB:  Low Water Levels on the Upper Mississippi River
  • Anne Strauss Wieder, A. Strauss-Wieder, Inc:  The Port of New York/New Jersey during and after Hurricane Sandy

 

Website:                     www.startvisuals.com

Conference ID:           8563828

Dial In:                        1-866-299-7945

Passcode:                    8563828#

What is the Value of US Trade by Mode and Direction – or what mode really matters??

May 13th, 2013

Given the concerns over the role of international trade, one could easily assume that trade moves either by air, vessels or simply crossing the border to our NAFTA partners. In some regards, trade depends upon all these gateways and trade corridors. The table does not have tonnage, as not all cargoes have a reported tonnage (especially in the other category). The modes are defined as air, a product that passed through an airport, Water passed through a maritime port, while other refers to cargo that either passed through a surface mode to Canada and Mexico (truck, rail or pipeline) or other products that traveled under their own power (like airplanes).

While total trade for the US grew over the period, Maritime trade actually captured some market share from other modes, mostly air cargo. This shift occurred after the recession, as some companies switched from the relatively more expensive air services to water shipments.

Total US Trade, By Gateway Mode, 2010-2012

 

 

In Billions of US Dollars (nominal)

 

Share of US Trade by Mode

2010

2011

2012

 

2010

2011

2012

Exports

Total

1,278

1,480

1,546

 

100%

100%

100%

Air

393

424

427

 

31%

29%

28%

Water

455

571

592

 

36%

39%

38%

Other

430

486

527

 

34%

33%

34%

 

 

 

 

Imports

Total

1,913

2,208

2,275

 

100%

100%

100%

Air

444

495

500

 

23%

22%

22%

Water

979

1,159

1,190

 

51%

52%

52%

Other

490

554

585

 

26%

25%

26%

 

 

 

 

Total

Total

3,191

3,688

3,821

 

100%

100%

100%

Air

837

919

927

 

26%

25%

24%

Water

1,434

1,730

1,782

 

45%

47%

47%

Other

920

1,040

1,112

 

29%

28%

29%

For the ITTS member States, the share looks slightly different. Given the lack of border trade with Canada and Mexico, trade through ITTS Member state gateways handle larger volumes of air and maritime shipments. (The majority of shipments in the other category include industrial and electrical machinery, and aircraft and parts.)

Total ITTS Trade, By Gateway Mode, 2010-2012

 

 

In Billions of US Dollars (nominal)

 

Share of ITTS Trade by Mode

 2010

2011

2012

2010

2011

2012

Exports

Total

182

218

237

100%

100%

100%

Air

48

53

56

26%

24%

24%

Water

102

129

141

56%

59%

59%

Other

32

36

40

18%

17%

17%

Imports

Total

256

300

313

100%

100%

100%

Air

53

53

58

21%

18%

19%

Water

173

214

220

68%

71%

70%

Other

30

33

34

12%

11%

11%

Total

Total

438

518

550

100%

100%

100%

Air

101

106

114

23%

20%

21%

Water

275

343

361

63%

66%

66%

Other

62

69

74

14%

13%

13%

In sum, to think about imports and exports without the connection to gateways (There is a great American Association of Port Authorities infographic here!!) is really not doing educating people as to the importance of transportation to trade.  And for the eight ITTS member states, which handle roughly 14% of the US trade (including 20% of the maritime trade and 12% of the international air trade), such trade provides critical jobs.

Source:  All data were compiled from the WISERTrade.  Tonnage information are not included for all variables, so were not included, and there are some differences in the column totals due to rounding differences.

Freight Advisory Council and State DOT’s

May 12th, 2013

The current MAP-21 calls for freight plans to consider outreach to private sector freight interests.  (Sec 1117).   One of the challenges is oftentimes the time scale for public and private decision making is fairly off.  For example, the planning cycle for a private sector project may be five years, while a public sector project may be much longer…

There is a talking freight seminar on freight advisory councils http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/fpd/talking_freight/index.htm  (If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Symoun, SAIC, 703-318-4267 or jennifer.e.symoun@saic.com)

Some other resources on working between public and private sector groups are:

(NCFRP) Report 8: Freight-Demand Modeling to Support Public-Sector Decision Making
I also did a presentation for the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce where I discussed the difference between public and private sector investment.

Aviation, Transportation and Sparrows

April 2nd, 2013

I came upon the following picture of airplanes taking off from Hannover airport, and it reminded me a flock of sparrows launching from a tree.  (http://aviationjustice.org/2012/12/18/ho-yeul-ryu-airport/)

I am not going to lecture about the importance of air travel, etc., but normally, we think about transportation as items of one:  one truck, one plane, one barge, one train… but in relativity it is an ongoing conveyor belt of material, components and people.  It is a system that works, but in many ways, it is a system that always seem to be staining at the limits of what could be, going everywhere in a hurry.

 

 



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