In collaboration with industry experts and researchers, OnTrackNorthAmerica is leading the development of a comprehensive dataset of land freight lifecycle impacts. Lasting negative impacts as well as costly delays during project development can be avoided if this wider set of factors, and stakeholder interests, are considered in plans and investments.

Infrastructure investments must reflect a complete understanding of the comparative impacts of trucks and railroads.

Initial Construction Factors

Factors affecting the capital costs of building transportation infrastructure.

Labor Costs.  The cost of labor needed to build the project.

Materials Costs. Costs of construction materials, not including land acquisition.

Materials Lifecycle Impacts. Impacts of sourcing and transporting construction materials.

Contractor. Costs of the entities or companies that plan, engineer, finance, and build new infrastructure. This may include the labor and materials.

Existing rights-of-way. Are there existing or legacy rights of way for building the new transportation infrastructure?

Right-of-way. If there are not existing rights-of-way, then the land and rights-of-way needed for new transportation infrastructure must be purchased.

Operating Factors

Factors affecting the operating costs and impacts for the use of and maintenance of transportation infrastructure.

Energy. Cost of fuel or energy used to transport goods (diesel, gasoline, electricity, natural gas, etc).

Energy Lifecycle Impacts. Impacts of sourcing, distributing, and using each fuel source used to transport goods.

Labor and administration. Labor and administrative cost for providing the required transportation service.

Maintenance of Transportation Assets. Cost of maintenance required to keep freight transportation viable and safe.

Useful Life of the Transportation Asset. Estimated life of the road surface, foundation, bridges, and track.

End of Life Asset Value or Cost of Disposal. Net of cost and value of road and track materials and rolling stock.

Transport Equipment. Cost of acquisition of trucks, locomotives, containers, rail cars, etc.

Useful Life of Transport Equipment. Estimated life of transportation equipment, i.e., trucks, railcars, locomotives, containers.

Maintenance of Transport Equipment. Cost of maintenance required to keep freight transportation equipment viable and safe.

End of Life Equipment Disposition Value and Impact. The net of value, costs, and impacts of equipment disposition at end of life.

Environmental Factors

Environmental footprint of transportation system, including metrics for air quality, climate change, water quality, noise, and light pollution.

Criteria Pollutants.  A set of air pollutants from fuel emissions that cause smog, acid rain, and other health hazards.

Greenhouse Gases. Emissions from the construction, operation, and maintenance of transport infrastructure that contribute to global warming.

Noise. The impact of noise on quality of life for areas abutting infrastructure from engines, rolling stock, and aerodynamics.

Water Quality. Impact of vehicle and fuel contamination on adjacent and downstream wildlife and natural environment.

Light Pollution. Impact of light from transportation on a community or on wildlife and the natural environment.

Toxic releases. Accidental and non-accidental releases of transported hazardous materials.

Wildlife Vitality. Impact on life expectancy and health of animals from truck and rail movements.

Land Use Factors

The spatial impacts of moving freight.

Land Used for Transport. The comparative land acreage of road or track surface and right-of-way needed by each mode for moving ton-miles of freight.

Social Factors

Social costs affecting people’s quality of life.

Safety.  Fatalities and injuries per ton-mile of freight.

Safety to the Transportation Providers. On-the-job fatalities and injury rate.

Travel Congestion – Recurring. Travel congestion impacts on highway capacity, lost time, and impacts of additional fuel use from truck and railroad operations.

Travel Congestion – Non-recurring. Travel congestion impacts on highway capacity, lost time, and impacts of additional fuel use from truck and railroad crashes.

Peaceful Enjoyment. Qualitative impact on human use of land adjacent to road and rail transportation corridors.

Economic Impacts

Factors used to estimate the infrastructure’s non-service-related impact on the region’s economic vitality.

Property Tax Impact. Added or lost property tax due to presence of transport infrastructure.

Land Freight Lifecycle Impact Project Action Steps:

  1. Gathering: Taking full inventory of existing data.
  2. Assessment: Convene representatives from all freight transportation perspectives to gauge the timeliness and value of each factor-set.
  3. Commission: Gather funding and then commission the needed research.
  4. Dissemination:  Make data available for low cost to the nation’s infrastructure planners, including campaign to promote awareness of new data.

Project Leader

Michael Sussman
Chairman, OnTrackNorthAmerica

Project Advisors

Dr. Mingzhou Jin
Director, Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment
University of Tennessee

Project Partner

As our Project Advisor Dr. Jin relates in his support letter, there is a yawning gap between the volumes of thoughtful research and its pragmatic application in the field. This project bridges that gap. It provides the framework for applying the fine work of researchers that study the individual elements of transportation costs and impacts.

Research and data alone are not enough… More than new research, this project will empower policymakers, citizens, and businesses with the full lifecycle implications of truck and rail transportation investments. Armed with that knowledge, we can consciously choose a new future. You are invited to contribute.

Project Outline


PHASE 1: Convening and Consensus

  • Prepare a draft list of costs and impacts to seed the large group engagement [complete]
  • Prepare and submit project grant proposals for foundation funding
  • Convene stakeholders in facilitated process to complete and agree on a comprehensive list of cost and impact metrics

PHASE 2: Data Assessment


  • Develop and document methods of calculating agreed metrics
  • Identify data required for the calculation methods
  • Investigate available data sources
  • Pinpoint the metrics where data is missing or not maintained
  • Determine proxy measures for approximating missing data in lieu of primary research
  • Determine the data that is ongoingly tracked by others versus the data that will need to be measured by us or others in future years

PHASE 3: DataSet Building


  • OTNA or affiliated entities conduct primary research for those metrics data that have not been pinpointed and can not be approximated effectively
  • Establish resources and methods for data formatting, alignment, and housing of data from the variety of providers
  • Establish the relations and the process for collaborating entities to provide their data ongoingly into our dataset
  • Establish resources and methods for data publication and dissemination
  • Develop the guidance on how to evaluate and analyze transportation systems with the developed metrics and dataset
  • Build in-house capability or a collaborative relationship for building the data and systems analysis tool/software application
Convening and Consensus

PHASE 1: Convening and Consensus

  • Prepare a draft list of costs and impacts to seed the large group engagement [complete]
  • Prepare and submit project grant proposals for foundation funding
  • Convene stakeholders in facilitated process to complete and agree on a comprehensive list of cost and impact metrics
Data Assessment

PHASE 2: Data Assessment


  • Develop and document methods of calculating agreed metrics
  • Identify data required for the calculation methods
  • Investigate available data sources
  • Pinpoint the metrics where data is missing or not maintained
  • Determine proxy measures for approximating missing data in lieu of primary research
  • Determine the data that is ongoingly tracked by others versus the data that will need to be measured by us or others in future years
DataSet Building

PHASE 3: DataSet Building


  • OTNA or affiliated entities conduct primary research for those metrics data that have not been pinpointed and can not be approximated effectively
  • Establish resources and methods for data formatting, alignment, and housing of data from the variety of providers
  • Establish the relations and the process for collaborating entities to provide their data ongoingly into our dataset
  • Establish resources and methods for data publication and dissemination
  • Develop the guidance on how to evaluate and analyze transportation systems with the developed metrics and dataset
  • Build in-house capability or a collaborative relationship for building the data and systems analysis tool/software application

Relevant Papers by Dr. Mingzhou Jin, Project Advisor


Wang and M. Jin, “Transportation Performance Measurement System with a Case Study in Mississippi,” The Journal of the Transportation Research Forum, 45 (3), pp. 19-37, 2006. You can find the full text at https://collaboration.fhwa.dot.gov/dot/fhwa/pm/Lists/aReferences/DispForm.aspx?ID=79 or http://journals.oregondigital.org/trforum/article/view/606/511

P. Kelle and M. Jin, “Development of Performance Measurement for Freight Transportation,” Final Report 522, NCITEC and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 2014. You can access it at https://www.ltrc.lsu.edu/pdf/2014/fr_522.pdf

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