Genevieve Giuliano, senior associate dean at the USC Price School of Public Policy and director of the METRANS Transportation Center, was among officials who recently accompanied U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx on a visit to a construction project aimed at improving the movement of freight at the largest and busiest port in the nation.
A member of the National Freight Advisory Committee (NFAC), Giuliano was joined by other committee members as well as federal, state and local elected officials, industry representatives and local port executives on the tour of the Berth 200 West Basin Rail Yard Project at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex.
Scheduled to be completed at the end of this year, the project will bring on-dock rail service to the only container terminal without it at the port complex, which handles more than 40 percent of all U.S. trade.
“It’s really important to put containers on rail as soon as they’re off the ship and then train them out of the region,” said Giuliano, who has extensively researched the effects of regulatory policy on freight transport systems and the financing and implementation of major freight infrastructure projects. “If not, you have to truck them to a rail terminal, adding to costs and delivery time. Moving freight as quickly as possible is essential in today’s competitive environment, which is based on time and reliability. Rail is also better for reducing highway congestion and air pollution.”
She pointed to the rail yard construction, which was partially funded by $16 million in competitive federal grants, as a prime example of transportation projects that are supported by multiple funding sources and public-private partnerships.
Best practices for freight impact
The NFAC was established to make recommendations on implementing legislative directives to develop a national freight strategic plan, establish a national freight network, assist states in implementing state level freight plans, and develop performance, data and planning tools.
Along with civil engineering professors Mike Walton of the University of Texas and Jose Holguin-Veras of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Giuliano serves on the NFAC as an expert, providing information and technical knowledge. Giuliano is participating in the research, development and technology subcommittee and will help to identify the most critical areas of freight research.
The subcommittee is focusing on best practices for mitigating freight impact around the country and barriers to improving connections between modes of transport.
“Can we make the connections between trucks and trains more efficient?” Giuliano asked. “Do we have policies that influence whether goods go on trains or trucks? If so, how do they affect the freight system? Can we make air cargo connections work better? And there are bottlenecks around the country that need attention ─ physical, policy and institutional barriers, as well as inefficiencies in the supply chain.”
Her own research includes looking at what happens when legislation creates new regulations that require a change in the way the supply chain operates.
“There are always unintended consequences,” said Giuliano, who has received numerous awards, including a Distinguished Research Contribution Award from the Council of University Transportation Centers.
An example she cited is the port complex’s PierPASS program, which established a container fee to shift port truck traffic to evening hours in order to reduce highway congestion and truck emissions.
“It has somewhat reduced daytime highway traffic and truck-related congestion,” Giuliano said, “but it also has had some negative impacts, such as extending the work time for truckers, reducing in some cases the number of trips they can manage and waiting in line at the port gates at certain hours of the day.”
Overall, she stressed the necessity of a national strategic freight plan.
“If we’re serious about economic competitiveness in a global economy,” she said, “the U.S. needs to address the national freight system and implement policies for making it as good as it can be.”