Designed to transform how we measure, plan, and invest in transportation systems, Phase I of The Freight Transportation Lifecycle Project takes the initial step of gathering all available rail-related data, and from that inventory addressing the gaps. These initiatives will provide transportation planners and stakeholders with the solid quantitative evidence that our nation has lacked in its decision-making.

For too long, our nation has not reckoned with the long-term implications, both positive and negative, of major transportation infrastructure decisions. While Benefit-Cost Analyses are increasingly required, the factors used to compare road to rail infrastructure investments has remained incomplete and short-sighted.

Given the substantial economic, environmental, and community impact of infrastructure projects, shouldn’t we as a society develop a complete data comparison on which to base decisions?

The Freight Transportation Lifecycle Project has identified 33 important data points for making intelligent full lifecycle investment decisions.

We are raising the funds to document the existing research on each factor and to facilitate the completion and assemblage of the research. This complete dataset will bring clarity to railroad’s benefits, so that a balanced system can be developed most intelligently.

OTNA is proud to have begun this important work. But it’s a big job and we can’t do it without your support. Learn how to contribute intellectually and financially.


Building on the output of Phase I, the second part of this initiative will address the weaknesses and limitations of conventional Benefit-Cost Analysis. Its robust replacement, called Lifecycle Benefit-Cost Analysis, will be designed to answer the real-world needs of 21st century transportation planners.

Major transportation infrastructure investments seldom include a comprehensive, thorough analysis of the full life-cycle costs of the alternatives under consideration. Even broad estimates of useful life for such public and private infrastructure investments are routinely ignored in the project planning and scoping phase that accompanies the overall decision-making process.

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