Capacity Modeling Guidebook for Shared-Use Passenger and Freight Rail Operations

In February 2009, at the urging of President Barack Obama, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provides $8 billion in all-federal funding to states, groups of states, compacts, and public agencies for intercity and high-speed rail development. High-speed rail development has become a signature element of Obama's transportation vision. In April, President Obama released the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) high-speed rail strategic plan, "Vision for High-Speed Rail in America", which outlines the administration's strategy for ARRA passenger rail funding. This document defines four categories of high speed rail service, and shared-use, passenger, and freight corridor operations predominate in three of the four categories. The ARRA high-speed rail funding flows through the program structure established in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) enacted in October 2008. The PRIIA legislation reauthorizes Amtrak and puts states in a key implementation role for the first time by providing significant grant funding with an authorized level of $3.4 billion in state grant funds over 5 years. States have responded to the new ARRA high-speed rail program by submitting over $57 billion in applications for the $8 billion in funding currently available. The great majority of these funding proposals involve the introduction and expansion of passenger rail service on shared-use corridors. The PRIIA legislation and ARRA high-speed rail funding guidelines call for states and underlying freight railroads on shared-use corridors to reach "arms length" agreements regarding access, the proper level of infrastructure improvements, and other issues before federal project funding is provided. The aim is to attempt to ensure that adequate infrastructure for passenger trains is in place at or near the time when passenger service begins in order to maximize track capacity to accommodate the passenger trains and to provide consistent on-time performance. Capacity models are often used by freight railroads and passenger operators to identify capacity issues in a given shared-use corridor and to determine the level of track, signal, and structure improvements that are required to add additional passenger service in a manner that does not degrade freight operations. These models have the potential to simplify time-consuming negotiations between states operating intercity passenger rail systems, commuter agencies, and freight railroads. Capacity models are designed to mimic passenger and freight and passenger movements in a given corridor. They are complex in their application, require large amounts of data, require great cooperation on behalf of the host freight railroad, and demand a great deal of experience and understanding to properly interpret outputs derived from them. While there has been experience on the freight rail industry side, states in most cases have not had the time to develop the expertise to fully understand the proper application of these models, even with the assistance of consultants. The methodolgy and ground rules for using these models can vary greatly depending on the consultant, the railroad, and the specifics of the corridor and proposed project. At this point in time, there is not a good understanding of the methodology for calibrating and applying these models to equitably address capacity and related infrastructure issues in a manner that protects the public interest while at the same time providing private freight railroads a reasonable incentive for entering into an agreement with a state or commuter agency as required by law. The objective of this research is to develop a detailed guidebook on capacity modeling techniques for state transportation agency staff and other public entities. This research will require a multi-disciplinary team with extensive and hands-on experience in capacity modeling applications for shared-use passenger and freight corridors. The team should have backgrounds in freight and passenger operations, engineering, and finance, as well as capacity modeling techniques. The study will need to have the active involvement of the major stakeholders, including the states, freight railroads, Amtrak, and commuter operators. To support and illustrate capacity modeling applications in the guidebook, case studies will be desirable to demonstrate their application. The case studies should be designed to cover the spectrum of geographic areas, freight densities, passenger service operating speeds, infrastructure improvement programs, and ownership-configurations. This work is continuing effort and outgrowth of work begun under <em>NCHRP Report 657: Guidebook for Implementing Passenger Rail Service on Shared Passenger and Freight Corridors</em>. This report addresses the need for capacity modeling but it does not go into detail on capacity modeling methodologies. In developing the capacity modeling guidebook, there are a number of issues that should be addressed: (1) How should the capacity modeling effort be structured to provide the most information to states on the proper level of infrastructure to be provided on shared-use corridors?(2) What is the public policy and economic rationale and basis for application of capacity models in shared-use corridors? (3) How can the model be best used to determine what amount of infrastructure will be required for a proposed passenger service? This includes: track and tie improvements, new shared-use or dedicated track in freight-owned rights-of-way, passing sidings, crossovers, signals, highway grade crossing improvements and warning devices, culverts, bridges, and drainage improvements. (4) What types of infrastructure improvements generate the greatest capacity improvement per dollar spent? (5) Should these improvements be designed for current capacity needs, future capacity needs, or both? How should costs be allocated if future capacity benefits both freight and passenger rail operations? (6) How can the federal statutory requirements for Amtrak-operated services regarding new services, adding frequencies, and increasing speeds be incorporated and properly modeled? (7) What level of freight growth should be incorporated? How can this best be done? (8) If an incremental improvement for passenger rail service, such as a new parallel track, provides significant capacity benefits for freight rail, should freight rail cost sharing be expected or otherwise accounted for? (9) How can the modeling process be used to best allocate infrastructure costs between the passenger and freight operations? (10) How will operational benefits to the freight railroad be accounted for? How should freight railroad operating rules that affect capacity, especially if there is no easily discernible benefit to passenger rail from those rules, affect cost allocation? (11) What benefits should flow to freight railroads as an incentive to participate in public-private partnerships to provide passenger or commuter rail service? (12) What are the data requirements for such models and how can data best be obtained from the freight railroad or other sources? (13) How should the freight railroad be involved in the modeling process? Is it possible to arrive at a "best practice" in terms of designing a process for modeling? (14) What should be the expectation regarding the cost of such a modeling exercise? How can the modeling effort be structured to minimize these costs? (15) How should the base case be structured? What is the proper test(s) to determine whether the base case has been fully calibrated? (16) What are the limitations of capacity models? Are there capacity models in use now that have been found not to work and that should no longer be used? (17) How can considerations not included in a formal model-based analysis be properly addressed? Is it conceivable to someday arrive at a consistent analysis that would be uniform for all freight railroads hosting


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  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $500000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 8-86

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Sundstrom, Lori

  • Start Date: 20100613
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 26468

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01463920
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 8-86
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:32PM