Chapter 1-4: Improvement Strategy California has the largest, most diverse economy in the United States, an economy supported by the largest, most diverse freight system in the nation. Part of this admirable status can be attributed to the State’s geographic position on the Pacific Rim and the very limited west/east transportation corridors in North America that give the State a natural competitive edge. It is equally true that California’s economic status can be attributed to decades of innovation and investment that built the transportation system, created the industries, and enhanced agricultural production that has made California’s national and international trade what it is today. While the freight industry in California is the country’s most extensive, sophisticated, and least polluting, substantial additional investment is needed to achieve the vision and goals guiding this freight plan and to retain the State’s global economic status. Many of the innovative techniques, systems, and technologies that will enable this transition and meet the challenges will be developed in California through its vibrant research activities within the freight industry and the State’s university system.
Going forward, we must build upon California’s natural advantages and the investments of past generations by:
1) maintaining and enhancing existing assets,
2) applying new technologies and system operations practices to improve the performance of all aspects of the freight system,
3) strategically adding new capacity, and
4) addressing the negative impacts of freight movement through programs and projects specifically targeted to the purpose and as a component of each freight project.
A multi-faceted, system-wide approach that addresses all four of these high-level improvement strategies will help ensure that the future freight system is both fiscally and environmentally sustainable.
Within the CFMP Vision Statement (Chapter 1-1), there is one pivotal word that is critical to the success of the State’s freight future: “collaboratively.” It is only through collaboration that the four broad strategies can be implemented and the CFMP Vision achieved. Absent a collaborative approach, little can be accomplished. California’s regional agencies have proven to be very effective in establishing collaborative relationships with their regional freight partners and increasingly, to coordinate among themselves on freight related matters. Strengthening the collaborative approach is an essential fifth strategy and should be formalized by regional agencies through the establishment of regional freight committees, and where there are not a sufficient number of freight partners to support a committee, at a minimum, regional agencies should designate a lead staff person to serve as a freight liaison. At the State level, the CFAC serves as a forum for expanded collaboration among government agencies, the freight industry, communities, and advocacy groups. The CFAC’s role is expanding to also advise the California Air Resources Board on their Sustainable Freight Strategy and may be asked to advise the State on other freight related matters. The CFAC is considered a “permanent” committee.
The six CFMP Goals (Chapter 1-1) can be used to further refine the strategies by focusing attention and resources on the most critical needs, identifying more specific project objectives, providing a structure for prioritizing projects and other actions for the allocation of funding. Prioritization must be flexible to meet local and regional needs while also being responsive to State and national needs. This will involve the implementation of hundreds of individual freight projects and air quality improvement and energy transition programs at regional and state levels. They will be funded by a variety of public agencies, private organizations, and public-private partnerships. Coordinating this large set of projects and programs to implement a coherent improvement strategy that meets the needs of project sponsors, communities, the State, and the nation will be challenging but is achievable.
In order to meet the challenge, a steady, sizeable funding source(s) must be available that can be applied to the wide range of needed projects and be available to public and private project sponsors. Absent adequate funding, the goals and strategies included in this plan will be largely unmet. A sixth improvement strategy is thus necessary, the creation of dedicated, reliable, long-term freight funding programs. This strategy is the foundation supporting the other strategies.
The task of addressing the six CFMP goals must be approached with the recognition that the vast scale of California’s freight system and freight-related industries requires regional and local leadership that addresses freight needs within the context of their jurisdictions. The State does not have sufficient local knowledge to consistently determine individual solutions or select project locations and priorities, particularly when the State is not the owner/operator of the respective freight mode or facility. Improvement strategies that may work well for the Border Region with Mexico may not be applicable to the Ports of San Pedro Bay, and be largely irrelevant to the rural northern portion of the State. A core premise of the Improvement Strategy is that where regional and sub-regional freight plans have been developed and formally adopted by the governing board of a public agency through an open public process, the priorities and projects contained in those plans will be applied to the State Freight Plan when those priorities and projects are consistent with achieving the six goals contained in the CFMP. Additional considerations for State project prioritization may apply to address freight network location, project type, priority goals, funding program requirements, and other factors that may be used by the State when identifying projects to endorse, sponsor, or fund.
All of the projects contained within the several existing regional freight plans that were developed prior to the preparation of the CFMP can be categorized by the six CFMP goals: 1 - Economic Competitiveness, 2 - Safety and Security, 3 - Freight System Infrastructure Preservation, 4 - Environmental Stewardship, 5 - Congestion Relief, and 6 - Innovative Technology and Practices, because the goals represent the core issues facing California’s freight system. Similarly, the basic project types that expand facility capacity, make operational and management improvements, preserve and maintain the system, and enhance communities and the environment are applicable statewide and also align with the broad strategies discussed above. Each freight project aligns with one or more of the CFMP goals and one or more of the project types. The need to address a specific goal or goals or to implement a specific project type will vary with each individual project, but the six goals and four project types can be applied to all of the freight projects compiled from all the regional and local freight plans.
Through the regional planning process, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs) develop Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) that address all transportation modes, including freight. The RTPs contain a list of transportation projects that includes freight projects, with identified potential funding sources. As may be required for a particular MPO or RTPA, air quality conformity analysis is conducted for designated non-attainment areas. The freight projects included in the RTP project list are included in the conformity analysis. In order to be eligible for federal transportation funding, transportation projects, including freight, must be in an RTP
Developing the RTP is a public process that involves local member agencies, transportation stakeholders, advocacy groups, and the public. All of the transportation needs of the respective region are considered for a period extending approximately 25 years. RTPs are updated on a four or five-year cycle depending on the specific regional agency. With the complex regional planning process and the multi-year cycle, it is essential that freight projects be included in the process at the beginning of an RTP update cycle so that the freight projects are assured of being included in the final RTP.
In many RTPs, freight projects are specifically identified within a freight category while in other RTPs, freight projects are not specifically identified but are instead addressed by a project that encompasses many transportation needs, including freight. Several of the State’s largest MPOs and a few of the smaller RTPAs have developed or are developing freight plans that are used to help inform the development of the more comprehensive RTP. Regional freight plans are becoming more common, and several of them have been funded recently through planning grants provided by Caltrans administering federal planning funds. In the San Joaquin Valley, eight MPOs joined together to develop a joint freight plan that covers the entire Valley. The CFMP recommends that when the RTP Guidelines are updated, freight is required as a specific chapter within the RTPs.
As a component of the CFMP, the freight projects contained in RTPs have been compiled for inclusion in the CFMP. The accompanying Freight Project List provides a state-wide listing of all of the regionally designated freight projects and freight related projects that are contained in RTPs. When the current RTPs were developed, there was not a common state-wide definition of a freight project that all regional agencies used. The CFMP seeks to establish a consistent definition for freight projects that will be included in future RTPs. The definition below generally, though not fully, applies to the current Project List compiled for the CFMP. A freight project is:
An improvement that significantly contributes to the freight system’s economic activity or vitality; relieves congestion on the freight system; improves the safety, security, or resilience of the freight system; improves or preserves the freight system infrastructure; implements technology or innovation to improve the freight system or reduce or avoid its negative impacts; or reduces or avoids adverse community and/or environmental impacts of the freight system. In addition to projects listed in the fiscally constrained portion of RTPs (projects with a reasonable assurance of funding availability), the Project List also contains projects that are not yet in the fiscally constrained portion of the RTP but are likely to be added when a reasonably assured source of funding is identified. The list includes additional freight projects that may not have been identified in an RTP but have been formally adopted by a governing board, such as a Port Authority, which means the project has been considered within the public planning process.
Each project in the Freight Project List is classified by the six CFMP goals that the project will address. In many instances a project will address more than one goal, which is ideal. The Project List also identifies if a project is located on California’s multimodal State Freight System (Chapter 2-1), the project type as discussed above, project readiness, and existing funding commitments. Linking the project list with State freight goals enables funding applicants and funding providers to better understand how their project meets federal and State freight goals along with meeting goals that may be tied to a specific funding program. Such classification will also assist the State in developing and implementing potentially new funding programs that may be targeted to specific goals. Regional agencies and freight system owner/operators may also be encouraged to propose new projects that meet specific goals and funding program needs.
Under the federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), freight projects must be included in a state adopted freight plan in order to be eligible for certain federal funding benefits. Though there is not yet a federal freight funding program, it is anticipated that such a program will be created and that in order to be eligible for funding, a project will have to be in a state freight plan that is consistent with federal freight planning guidelines. The CFMP is including the full set of freight projects that are included in the State’s RTPs. Project sponsors can seek funding that is most appropriate to the funding source goals and be prioritized by applicants to meet particular CFMP goals that are best suited for the region or locality.
Listed below are examples of projects that may be tied to a particular goal. Ideally, individual projects will address more than one goal, such as an Innovative Technology project addressing Environmental Stewardship needs or a Congestion Relief project improving Economic Competitiveness. It is anticipated that the most competitive projects will be those that address the most of the six goals and have the greatest measurable impact on those goals. Similarly, the most competitive projects are likely to be those that are located on the designated federal Primary Freight Network or the State Freight Network as detailed in Chapter 2-1.
Projects that eliminate bottlenecks and recurrent delay
Projects that accelerate rapid incident response
Capacity expansion of freight corridors, or subsections, where demand is at or exceeds capacity through infrastructure or operational improvements
Improvements that eliminate unnecessary freight lifts or handling
Safety and Security
Truck-only lanes and facilities
Projects that encourage off-peak usage of freight facilities
The beginning of this chapter discussed the naturally occurring and human built advantages that characterize California’s freight system and that we need to build on those advantages going into the future. There are four very broad focus areas where all of the goals and project types apply: gateways, corridors, last-mile connectors, and regional and statewide initiatives. Focusing and prioritizing the hundreds of projects contained in the Freight Project List on these four areas may garner the most benefits to the State.
The national and international freight gateways for California are the State’s seaports, airports, international border ports of entry, and major highway border points with neighboring states. All of the goods and services that enter or leave the State pass through these nodes. Each gateway needs to function efficiently, minimize delay, ensure safety and security, and keep transaction costs to a minimum, without creating impacts on neighbors. Currently, there are bottlenecks, capacity restrictions, congestion, insufficient information resources, and other obstacles that add delay, cost, and community impacts. Improving these gateways is a high priority. Each gateway requires specific actions and projects to address its unique needs. Projects that improve the functioning of the gateways and reduce or eliminate associated impacts should be prioritized for funding.
Connecting to each gateway is one or more corridors that provide regional, state, and national connectivity. For the highway system, the corridors are part of the federal Primary Freight Network or are on the State Freight Network. In addition to highways, the Class I railroad lines that provide connectivity to other states are also included as part of the corridors. As with the gateways, all of the goals and project types can be applied to the corridors. Some of the corridors are the subject of multi-state partnerships (Interstates 15, 80, and 5 for example) are particularly important for interstate commerce. Others, such as State Routes 60 and 99 and Interstate 580, are essential to interstate commerce and regional freight movement. All require focused investment and collaboration among jurisdictions, communities, and the freight industry to make the needed improvements. It is likely that fiscal resource investments will be concentrated along these corridors in order to have the greatest system impact. It may be that particular corridors are prioritized above others for limited funding. Project prioritization will be conducted in collaboration among regions, local agencies, communities, industry, and the State.
Linking many of the gateways and corridors are the smaller locally owned roadways that serve as “last-mile” connectors. They are essential to the function of the freight system. They typically have very high truck volumes but do not have the level of pavement maintenance and preservation funding that is necessary to keep them in a state of good repair. Such connectors are also often adjacent to or go through neighborhoods populated by lower income communities. Addressing these connector roads requires very close coordination with local agencies and communities, but also requires funding that may not be readily available. These roadways are not on the federal or state network and are typically reliant on local funding.
As mentioned frequently throughout the CFMP, air quality and energy transition objectives are among the highest priorities for the CFMP. The needed improvement actions must take place across vast regions, sometimes the entire State, and occasionally as with cargo ships, on an international scale. There are also highly localized actions to address issues at specific freight facilities. While the Air Resources Board, regional air quality management districts, and the California Energy Commission do provide financial incentives to help fund the transition, the incentives are not sufficient to fully fund the transition and in some cases, the respective private enterprise does not have sufficient resources either. It is necessary to develop additional funding options and to make related projects eligible for freight funding.