AASHTO SRPG 1S:2016 State Rail Planning Best Practices.
Some rail plans tailor their outreach to place greater focus on particular stakeholders. In Delaware, the DOT (DeIDOT) utilized information from a freight shipper survey conducted by the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) to understand the rail needs of shippers and how freight rail transportation could be improved to serve them. The state also held a Delmarva Rail Summit in 2010 with participation from Maryland and Virginia rail agencies to better understand the rail needs of shippers and other system users. Special events like “rail summits” can bring together rail stakeholders with diverse motivations to identify common interests and build consensus.
Room for Improvement
While the scope and reach of efforts to engage rail stakeholders expanded significantly in the post- PRIIA rail planning age, the efficacy of outreach efforts remains unclear. In nearly every instance, state rail plans summarize the number of meetings, surveys, or other events and the number and type of participants. The outreach summaries also do a good job of distilling the most common outreach findings; but there is still a gap in understanding which outreach activities yielded the highest quality input—the type of consistent and thoughtful input that provides strategic value.
3.2 System Performance and Capacity
Historically, state rail plans offered an in-depth inventory of the rail history and assets of the state. The latest generation of state rail plans builds on this tradition but includes a more intensive focus on system performance and capacity issues—both current and future. State rail plans generally examine system performance in one of several ways. For freight system performance and capacity, many agencies utilize the findings of the American Association of Railroads (AAR) National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study, which contains maps showing current and future rail capacity constraints on the national system. The power in using this information is that states are basing their findings on a national study that engaged all Class I railroads in developing a consensus view of the current and future state of capacity. Figure 3-4 shows how Kansas adapted the AAR findings to show level of service in 2035.
The potential weakness of this approach is that it may not be sufficiently granular for any given state to develop an improvement program. (The intent of the AAR study was to show broad corridor level issues, current and potential.) In response, some states have developed more detailed, state-specific information and graphics to depict the current and future state of their freight and passenger rail performance. Washington State DOT (WSDOT), for example, created a series of maps which illustrate current and future system utilization (2010 and 2035) expressing the percentage of available capacity that is utilized. The two maps show a dramatic change on Washington’s freight rail system, with most main lines at 100 percent of capacity by 2035.AASHTO SRPG 1S pdf download.