Eight County Freight Plan Study
Below you can review the final drafts of the Eight County Freight Plan Study.
The Eight County Region (Study Area) is at the heart of major US manufacturing and agricultural activity, yet for the most part does not have direct access to the interstate system for distribution of goods regionally and nationally. This means that the US, State and county roadways, the railroads and the water ports in the Study Area are the life lines for commerce.
In order for the East Central Intergovernmental Association & Blackhawk Hills Regional Council (Project Team) to provide a freight transportation system that attracts new businesses and enables others to maintain and grow their presence in the Study Area, several key questions must be answered, including:
- • How are the Study Area’s key freight corridors used today? How might they be used in the future?
- • What is transported on the freight system today? How might that change in the future?
- • What are businesses/key industries freight system performance requirements? How does the existing system meet them?
- • Where are the Study Area’s key freight system bottlenecks? and,
- • How should these bottlenecks be addressed? Policies? Projects?
The Eight County Freight Plan will be developed to answer these questions, with the primary Plan objective of:
To develop a better understanding of the multimodal freight system in the tristate region and to use this information to better inform policy and programming decisions in the region.
Thus the central output of the study will be the identification of baseline freight movements across modes, the identification of the major freight transportation challenges including truck bottlenecks and how they may impact the performance of key regional economic sectors, and the formulation recommendations on freight policy and projects that will provide the greatest benefit to the region. This study will also provide the Project Team and their planning and economic development partners with a means of leveraging freight transportation data to help them make better, more informed investment decisions BEYOND this study.
The East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA) in partnership with Blackhawk Hills Regional Council (BHH) is working to complete a multimodal, intermodal freight plan for the eight county region that enhances the mobility of both people and goods while mitigating the negative impacts on mobility, safety, environment and quality of life.
The study will include development of a regional freight model, creation of a commodity flow database, and prioritization of future improvements. When complete, the study will provide key recommendations for existing and future roadways, rail, river, intermodal, and other freight facilities.
Steering Committee Meeting #2 - Developing a Robust Foundation for the Eight County Freight Plan
A solid baseline of information must be established prior to analyzing the Eight County Region’s multimodal freight system. This includes articulating what industries drive the Region’s economy and how those industries use transportation in their daily activities. It also includes articulating the array of infrastructure assets (including road, rail, water, and air modes) and multimodal facilities available for their use, and the unique and important roles each mode serves.
Steering Committee Meeting #2 focused on building awareness on the Region’s economic drivers and key infrastructure components. The Steering Committee was presented preliminary information and provided an opportunity to give feedback on its accuracy, and any elements that may be missing or need revision, prior to initiating freight system analysis.
Steering Committee Meeting #3 - Commodity Flows of the Eight County Region
At this Steering Committee Meeting the first glimpse of freight movements in the Eight County Region in terms of tonnage, value, mode, and both domestic and international trade was presented. These commodity flows will be used in the Eight County Freight Plan in several ways, including to better understand how the freight system is used today and could be used in the future, to help articulate multimodal freight system needs, and to identify and provide justification (by key industry) for potential system improvements (including infrastructure investment and policy).
This meeting also continued the process of establishing a vision and goals for the Eight County Freight Plan. Establishing this early on in the planning process will ensure that the final plan recommendations are focused and aligned with what matters most to the region. The Steering Committee provided feedback on the updated vision and an initial set of goals.
Steering Committee Meeting #4 – Developing a Framework for Conducting the Freight System Needs Assessment
The Eight County Freight Plan will assess freight system needs using both quantitative and qualitative data and information. To best accomplish this, and ensure needs are assessed against what is most important to the Region, this meeting formalized a framework that connects the freight plan vision and goals with performance measures. Freight performance areas that will be assessed to identify multimodal system needs include safety, efficiency, reliability and connectivity. The results of this quantitative assessment will be compared against qualitative feedback received from the Steering Committee and other Regional stakeholders engaged during consultations and an online survey. As example, some of this feedback will include results of the discussion held during the meeting on the preliminary Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) findings.
This meeting also provided an overview of the visualization tool that will be used to display the myriad data collected during the planning process. A live demonstration illustrated how the project stakeholders will be able to query the tool to better understand the Region's supply chains and connections to the Nation.
Steering Committee Meeting #5 – Results of Freight System Needs Assessment and Identification of Initial Slate of Strategic Recommendations
The Eight County freight system needs and issues were identified using a quantitative and qualitative process. The quantitative findings came from a performance assessment of the system as related to safety, efficiency, reliability and connectivity. The qualitative feedback was received from the Steering Committee and other Regional stakeholders engaged during one-on-one consultations and an online survey.
While the Eight County freight system generally performs as good as, or better, than the US freight system, there are pockets of need found throughout the study area, including spot safety issues along key corridors of US-20, US-30 and others; pavement and bridge maintenance needs along key corridors, in particular those crossing the Mississippi River; lock and dam condition and maintenance issues; and the need to better coordinate between the states of Iowa and Illinois on issues related to truck routes, weight limits, and permitting.
This meeting also presented an overview of the benefit-cost “parametric analysis” that will be conducted on select projects/project types, and sought input on the methodology, as well as what should ultimately be evaluated.
Steering Committee Meeting #6 – Additional Analysis to Support Recommendations
Based on Steering Committee comments, this meeting presented a detailed review of technical analysis conducted to determine where specific roadway improvements may be warranted. This analysis was focused on safety, efficiency and reliability gaps in the system for freight users. The analysis showed that congestion is only a periodic issue at a small number of locations (for example, adjacent to the Walmart distribution center in Sterling, or in downtown Dubuque). However, safety is a concern, in particular along the US 20 corridor.
This meeting also presented several options for conducting benefit-cost analyses for comment by the Steering Committee. The intent of conducting these analyses is to provide guidance to Eight County stakeholders on what freight investments could yield economic, social and other benefits commensurate with the costs. Generally stakeholders were in favor of conducting multimodal analyses that reflected safety improvements to US 20 and improved maritime capabilities in the Region.
As the Eight County Freight Study is nearing completion, this meeting reviewed the slate of work products to be delivered for additional feedback from the Steering Committee.
Steering Committee Meeting #7 – Final Recommendations and Results of Benefit-Cost Analysis
The final meeting of the Eight County Freight Study Steering Committee began with a review of the work accomplished to date and an overview of study recommendations. The majority of the meeting was focused on the results of the benefit-cost analyses conducted for three freight project concepts:
• US 20 Safety/Performance Corridor (IL)
• US 30 Multimodal Access Corridor (IA)
• East Dubuque Marine Terminal (serving IA and IL)
The results of the analyses showed that each could provide benefits to the Region. All three offer public benefit, but support very different levels of public investment. US 20 and US 30 projects have high benefits, and could support high costs; good news, since these projects are likely to be expensive. The barge terminal improvements have modest benefits, but could probably be accomplished with very modest expenditures.
Based on Steering Committee feedback, the final Working Paper focused on recommendations, and the final study report will be completed within the coming weeks.