This research built upon previous work on the development of tools to bridge the gaps in the analysis and understanding of the relationships between economic growth and transportation infrastructure in Alabama. The tasks performed under this contract included:
- Development of the Integrated Freight Planning Framework including Trip Generation, Trip Distribution, Modal Split and Assignment and Analysis of System Performance Measures,
- Development of the Alabama Transportation Infrastructure Model version 2 with the addition of the rail and waterway networks,
- An evaluation of alternative transportation modes for improving transportation and freight flow, and
- The enhancement and expansion of the application of continuous improvement principles for port operations
The availability and accuracy of freight data is the key to making informed decisions on infrastructure investment and policy issues that affect the effectiveness and efficiency of the freight transportation system. Available and accurate freight data is critical to the evaluation of options to mitigate congestion, improve economic competitiveness, facilitate the effective use of land planning, optimization of modal activity, improve safety and security, reduce fuel consumption and enhance air quality. Although data by itself does not ensure good decision-making, it is impossible to make informed decisions without valid data.
Researchers at UAHuntsville developed and implemented the Integrated Freight Planning Framework (IFPF) which produces a direct freight forecast based upon industry sector economic activity. An industry sector based forecast offers an improvement to a forecast based upon a percentage of overall traffic flow used by transportation planners throughout the U.S. The IFPF establishes a direct relationship between the major industry sectors in a region and the freight traffic generated as a result of industrial sector activity. Value of Products Shipped, Household Income, Employment and Population are used as indicators of sector economic activity in the relationships for forecasted freight traffic. The ultimate goal of this research was to provide tools and information that can be used by state and MPO level transportation planners and decision makers. These tools should improve the results of analysis and reasonable decisions on program and infrastructure necessary to improve the overall function and performance of the transportation system for passenger, transit and freight users.