Freight and Air Quality Handbook
This section presents a series of case studies of freight projects and programs that seek to improve air quality and reduce freight-related emissions. These case studies provide real-world examples of the operational, infrastructure, and technology solutions being used to solve freight air quality problems. Each case study identifies "key themes" for freight and air quality practice, allowing practitioners to quickly identify case studies that may be most relevant to their interests. The case studies are organized according as to whether the emission reduction strategies employed are technological in nature (e.g., diesel engine retrofits) or operational (e.g., congestion management).
5.1.1 North Central Texas Council of Governments Diesel Freight Vehicle Idle Reduction Program
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is an association of local governments in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region. NCTCOG serves 16 counties centered around Dallas and Fort Worth, and is comprised of over 230 member governments, including counties, cities, school districts, and special districts. NCTCOG also is the Federally designated MPO for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The MPO planning area includes all of Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Rockwall counties and parts of Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, and Parker counties, for a total area of over 5,000 square miles. Of the 6.6 million people that live in the 16-county area, 92 percent (6.1 million) reside in the MPO planning area.
All nine of the MPO counties were designated as ozone nonattainment areas by the EPA in 2004. Recognizing the impact that truck and rail freight operations have on regional air quality, the NCTCOG created the Diesel Freight Vehicle Idle Reduction Program as a way to link city and regional policies and investments related to idle reduction programs. The program seeks the use of Federal funds in order to improve the area's goods movement infrastructure and generate air quality benefits. Through the Regional Transportation Council (the MPO's policy-making body), NCTCOG offers grant funding for projects that reduce unnecessary truck idling, thereby also reducing NOx emissions. The MPO has partnered with several stakeholders, including TxDOT, local governments, and private sector businesses to identify and fund specific freight system improvements or technological upgrades to mitigate freight-related vehicle emissions. The primary focus of the program is on truck stop electrification and anti-idling efforts.
Each year, NCTCOG issues a call for projects outlining general program guidelines, eligibility, and application procedures. Primary consideration is given to projects that achieve emissions reductions mostly within the nonattainment counties, but consideration is given to projects that reduce emissions in the EPA Blue Skyways Collaborative states, focusing on the I-35 corridor. Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funds have been used under this program to make improvements to private freight facilities under a section of the program that allows public money to be spent on private freight facilities if a public benefit can be demonstrated. Grant funding also comes from EPA money. NCTCOG also makes use of EPA programs, including the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, the National Clean Diesel Emerging Technology Program, and the SmartWay Clean Diesel Finance Program, all of which are under DERA.
During the 2008 round, four projects were awarded funding totaling nearly $746,000 to fund on-board idle reduction and truck stop electrification projects, three of which were sponsored by private sector entities:
NCTCOG offers application assistance to prospective applicants, including a spreadsheet-based idle reduction calculator that estimates NOx reduction and cost-effectiveness in both the DFW nonattainment area and the Blue Skyways Collaborative region.
5.1.2 Cascade Sierra Solutions
Cascade Sierra Solutions (CSS) is similar to the NCTCOG Diesel Freight Vehicle Idle Reduction Program, but it has been implemented at a multistate corridor level, in response to the multijurisdictional nature of freight movements. The program focuses on the states of Washington, Oregon, and California but has provided advice and financing for truck owners nationwide. CSS seeks to reduce freight emissions by helping truck owner-operators and fleets make technological improvements that will save fuel and reduce diesel emissions. CSS helps truck owners find financing for fuel-saving technology applications like APU as well as new trucks; it also helps them process tax credit applications with various other government entities that offer incentives for emissions reduction upgrades. CSS obtains operational funding from a combination of donations, grants from private foundations, limited client service fees, and various government grant programs. CMAQ and DERA are two key sources of Federal funding for CSS. The organization also receives grant money from various state and local environmental agencies. A few recent CSS projects are outlined below.
5.1.3 San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach lie adjacent to each other about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. They are the two busiest container ports in the United States and, taken together, the fifth busiest in the world. More than $260 billion worth of goods move through the ports each year. Southern California has well-documented air quality issues, with several counties or portions of counties in the region in nonattainment status for ozone, PM10, and PM2.5. Although the region's air quality problems stem from a variety of sources, the ports are a significant source of diesel emissions in the area, particularly given the explosive growth in international trade that has occurred over the last few decades.
The San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) is an emissions reduction plan adopted by the ports to improve air quality in the Los Angeles basin by implementing strategies to reduce port-related emissions from ships, trains, trucks, terminal equipment, and harbor craft. It represents the culmination of a series of air quality initiatives that began with a promise from the City of Los Angeles to have no new emissions. Although the San Pedro Bay ports are a significant source of diesel emissions in the region, the Federal and state governments have no authority over many port emissions sources (such as foreign-flagged vessels), so the ports can employ emissions strategies that other entities cannot.
The CAAP is a collaborative program that has been endorsed and adopted by both ports. Getting both ports on-board was critical because port tenants need assurance that they would not be subject to different requirements at each port. The plan also has the support of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, EPA, and California Air Resources Board. The CAAP is a five-year plan, but it also has a long-term component that describes how five-year emissions reduction actions would be integrated into port operations over the long term, and their expected impact on emissions. The plan targets PM emissions, but SOx and NOx reductions are secondary goals.
The CAAP focuses on three implementation strategies:
Although the plan considers five emissions source categories (vessels, harbor craft, cargo handling equipment, rail, and truck), the ports have determined that focusing on trucks offers the best "bang for the buck"; accordingly, they have concentrated significant resources on the Clean Trucks Program. This program seeks to replace or retrofit 16,000 harbor trucks in five years by:
As of October 2008, pre-1989 trucks were banned from the terminals. Model year 1989 and later trucks will be progressively banned until only 2007 and newer models (which employ the cleanest diesel technology) are permitted access to the terminals without paying the impact fee. Collection of the truck impact fee began in February 2009. Beneficial cargo owners are now charged $35 per TEU to access the terminals ('Beneficial cargo owner' means the importer of record who takes possession of a shipment at the final destination (i.e., not a third-party freight carrier)). This fee is collected by PortCheck, a nonprofit sister company to PierPass (described below). The ports are using the proceeds to subsidize new truck purchases. In addition, about 50 grants have been awarded to retrofit existing trucks, replace them with newer models, or adopt alternative fuels such as LNG.
The ports provide most of the program funding, but they are getting some state support for the Clean Trucks Program. Overall, the ports have proposed to allocate $200 million to the Clean Trucks Program alone.
5.1.4 Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Columbia River Barge Tow Repower
The Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains, virtually at sea level, making it an important river connection between the American Midwest and the West Coast. In fact, the Columbia and Snake River system is the largest inland waterway west of the Mississippi River. Large volumes of agricultural products traverse the Columbia via barge en route to export markets in Asia. These rivers are the largest wheat export system in the United States with exports on the lower Columbia River projected to double by 2025. Geographic barriers and climatic characteristics make the Columbia River Gorge particularly susceptible to air pollution problems stemming from several sources, including highway, rail, and barge transportation; industrial activities; and major population centers.
Shaver Transportation Company began providing marine freight transport services on the Willamette River in the 1880s with steam powered sternwheelers. With the introduction of diesel engines and improved navigation, the company extended its service area to the Columbia and Snake rivers. The company currently provides ship assist services in the Portland/Vancouver harbor and upriver barge service as far as Lewiston, Idaho.
Like locomotives, barge tow engines have exceptionally long service lives. Normal business practice in the barge tow industry is to overhaul engines periodically, which is much cheaper than purchasing new engines, despite the expected fuel savings. In this case, to achieve greater air quality benefits Shaver instead proposed to replace the two 33-year old diesel engines on its tug CASCADES with EPA Tier 2-compliant MTU 12V4000 M60 engines, which emit no more than the certified limits for NOx and PM.
These new engines have the same power output as the old ones but are much more fuel efficient, saving the company about 158,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year while eliminating 1,600 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide. The new engines reduced the barge’s NOx emissions by 69 percent, or about 209 tons annually. Although data for PM emissions from the old engines are unavailable since they predate any emissions regulations, other reports indicate that PM emission reductions somewhere between 60 and 85 percent can be expected from the repowered engines. To achieve equivalent results (in both NOx and PM) from heavy-duty trucks would require retrofitting about 250 trucks at a cost of over $3.7 million.
The overall project cost for the engine repower was $1.9 million with 35 percent of that coming from Federal grant funds and state tax credits. The total cost included not only the engines themselves but other integrally related costs like gear box reductions, keel engine coolers, shipyard costs, and engineering. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality secured a $100,000 DERA grant for the project. The project also received two tax credits offered by the State of Oregon – one for $220,000 through the Business Energy Tax Credit program administered by the Oregon Department of Energy, and an ODEQ Diesel Repower Tax Credit for $350,215. The Business Energy and Clean Diesel Tax Credits reduce Oregon taxpayer liability for cleaner and/or more efficient diesel engine repowers by covering a portion of the incremental costs of qualifying projects. The remaining funding (about $1.2 million) was provided by Shaver Transportation.
5.1.5 Chicago CMAQ Locomotove Purchase
The Chicago region experiences air quality issues associated with a large (and growing) population, increasing vehicle-miles traveled (VMT), and a concentration of industrial activities. All or part of eight counties in Northeastern Illinois are in a designated nonattainment area for ozone and PM2.5. Chicago's status as the nation's premier rail freight hub (all seven Class I railroads connect there) means diesel emissions from rail locomotives are a pressing concern. This is especially true near rail yards, since many of the switcher locomotives used to reposition rail cars and assemble trains are older and lack sophisticated emissions control technology.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP, the MPO for the region) has a CMAQ project selection committee which evaluates projects applying for funding through the area's CMAQ apportionments. Each year, there is an open call for projects. In 2007, the City of Riverdale (located about 20 miles south of downtown Chicago) approached the committee with a project concept focused on replacing switcher locomotives at a large rail yard owned by CSX. After consultations between officials from the MPO and the City, as well as CSX, an application for funding was submitted. The project then was selected for a CMAQ grant (The MPO evaluates all funding applications and performs emissions modeling to estimate air quality impacts. Projects are rated based on the cost per kilogram of pollutant(s) reduced). The funds were used to replace five switchers in the CSX Riverdale yard with cleaner Genset locomotives.
CMAQ normally requires a 20 percent local match (However, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 provided for up to a 100 percent Federal share for CMAQ projects in FY 2008 and 2009). Historically, local agencies acting as sponsors of air quality projects have provided the match. In this case, however, the CSX railroad provided the match, by paying for the fifth locomotive. The CMAQ grant was used to purchase the other four gensets. Under the terms of the funding agreement, CSX is required to keep the new locomotives within the nonattainment area for at least 10 years. This does not present a problem for switch locomotives since they operate only at the switchyard.
The successful implementation of this project garnered the attention of other railroads in the Chicago region, and in subsequent years the MPO has received several applications for similar projects. Demand has been so great, in fact, that the match required of the railroads was recently raised to 35 percent. It was determined that the fuel savings the railroads realize through adopting cleaner locomotives more than offsets the higher match requirement. In FY 2009, five locomotive retrofit projects were awarded funding totaling nearly $11 million (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 'CMAQ Multi-Year Program for Northeastern Illinois – FY 2009', retrieved from http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/uploadedFiles/committees/cmaq/documents/fy09/Approved%20FY%202009%20CMAQ%20Program.pdf).
5.2.1 Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach PierPass/OffPeak Program
PierPass is a nonprofit entity created by marine terminal operators at the San Pedro Bay ports in Southern California. It was developed in 2004 in response to a bill introduced in the California legislature that would have imposed a "peak-hour surcharge" on all containers entering or exiting the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Faced with the prospect of having a tax imposed on daytime container movements, the terminal operators banded together and proposed a private sector solution. Although congestion relief is the primary focus of the program, it also has important air quality benefits.
The program (known as OffPeak) provides incentives for shippers to move cargo at night and on weekends, rather than during congested daytime hours. The incentive is in the form of a "traffic mitigation fee" imposed on all cargo imported and exported through the ports. The fee currently is set at $50 per 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) (One TEU corresponds to a standard 20-foot shipping container. The most common containers are 40 feet long, or two TEUs), but can vary according to business conditions and the actual costs of running the OffPeak program. Cargo owners then receive a refund for all loads that are handled during off-peak hours, which are defined as 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. on Monday through Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. This reduces congestion at the ports' gates and takes trucks off the road during the busiest hours of the day, both of which reduce emissions from idling traffic. Intermodal cargo that already is being charged a fee by the Alameda Corridor Transit Authority (ACTA) is exempted from the charge. Revenues from the traffic mitigation fee are used to support the operating costs associated with maintaining extended port gate hours.
OffPeak usage of the marine terminals has grown fairly steadily since the program was implemented in late 2005, and was approaching 40 percent by the end of 2008 (http://www.pierpass.org/). It is estimated that about 68,000 truck trips each week occur during OffPeak shifts, and in three years of operation, OffPeak removed more than nine million truck trips from local freeways during peak commuting hours (PierPass, "PierPass OffPeak program diverts more than nine million truck trips from daytime traffic over first three years of operation," press release dated July 23, 2008). Since trucks represent a large share of the traffic mix on area freeways (especially near the ports), this shift to off-peak trip making leads directly to fewer trucks idling in traffic during the day, wasting fuel and increasing emissions. It also means shorter queues at the port gates, reducing the amount of time trucks must idle while waiting to access the terminals.
One key strength of OffPeak is its responsiveness to industry needs. The program was designed to be flexible so that fees and OffPeak terminal operations could be adjusted according to business trends and cost factors. For instance, the marine terminal operators recently announced that one OffPeak shift would be eliminated because of the large drop in cargo volumes associated with the current economic downturn. When volumes begin to grow again, shifts can be added to cope with the increased demand. The program also has benefited truckers who access the ports, two-thirds of whom have a positive opinion of OffPeak. Truckers report increased income (from being able to make more trips during a work shift), reduced congestion, and lifestyle benefits associated with more flexible work schedules (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates, PierPass Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Truckers Survey, 2006).
5.2.2 Port of Seattle SR 519 Intermodal Access Project
The Port of Seattle is a major marine freight gateway for the Pacific Northwest, particularly for Asian trade. In 2007, the port was ranked as the nation's seventh busiest (Port of Seattle). SR 519 is a key truck access route to the port. In recent years, railroad grade crossings and increasing freight and passenger traffic at the Port of Seattle have led to congestion around the port complex. The surrounding SoDo district also experiences heavy pedestrian traffic from the many entertainment and tourist attractions in the area, leading to concerns about safety and conflicts between pedestrians and motorized vehicles.
In response, the Washington State DOT (WSDOT) has been implementing a series of improvements aimed at streamlining traffic in the area. Phase 1 of the project consisted of the construction of a new overpass between Occidental Avenue South and I-90, separating truck, automobile, and pedestrian traffic from the railroad tracks. In Phase 2, WSDOT will connect a westbound off-ramp from I-5 and I-90 to the existing South Atlantic Street overpass, make key intersection improvements, and build a bridge on South Brougham Way over the railroad tracks. Construction of Phase 2 began in October 2008.
The proposed improvements to SR 519 will separate car, freight, pedestrian, and rail traffic around the port, thereby improving passenger, freight, and pedestrian mobility around the port complex. The Environmental Assessment for Phase 2 found that implementation of the project would improve air quality by reducing congestion and idling times for freight trucks and trains as well as passenger traffic. The project will comply with NAAQS, the Washington State Implementation Plan (SIP) for carbon monoxide, and all requirements of the Washington Clean Air Act and the Federal Clean Air Act.
Like many recent freight projects, the SR 519 improvements are being financed through a public/private partnership involving Federal, state, local, and private funds. Phase 1 of this project cost $109.3 million. This money came from a variety of sources, as outlined below.
Phase 2 is expected to cost $84.4 million, which also was assembled from several sources:
The Central Puget Sound region was designated as a maintenance area for carbon monoxide in 1996. The quantified air quality benefits of the SR 519 improvements will help the region meet its emissions budgets, an important element in ensuring that the project moves toward implementation.
5.2.3 Colton Crossing
The Colton Crossing is the intersection of the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks in Colton, California just south of I-10. Explosive growth in maritime freight traffic at the San Pedro Bay ports in Los Angeles has contributed to increasing rail congestion at this strategic intersection, because the majority of containers that move through the ports via rail must pass through the Colton Crossing. More than 110 trains pass through the crossing each day, making it one of the busiest rail intersections in the country. These tracks also are used for commuter trains. The growth in freight traffic has caused increased wait times for trains that must idle while waiting for other trains to pass. It also has led to passenger vehicle congestion at highway/rail grade crossings, which increases emissions.
The proposed Colton Crossing grade separation would provide an east-west structure to separate the BNSF and UP tracks and allow for greater passenger and freight mobility. A benefit/cost analysis prepared for the railroads found that reduced locomotive and vehicle idling from implementing the grade separation would save nearly one million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel annually. It also would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 34,000 tons per year, with significant reductions in other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter (HDR/HLB Decision Economics, Inc., BNSF and Union Pacific Public Benefit Study for Colton Crossing Grade Separation, February 7, 2008). A similar analysis conducted by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. for the Riverside County Transportation Commission estimated public benefits on four key metrics, two of which relate to air quality. The study determined that a grade separation would reduce emissions from idling locomotives as well as passenger cars stopped at grade crossings.
In 2010, this project was awarded a USDOT TIGER Discretionary Grant for $33.8 million dollars. The remaining financing will come from a combination of California Trade Corridor Improvement Fund (TCIF) money and contributions from the UP and BNSF railroads. The total project cost is estimated at nearly $200 million dollars. The funding breakdown is as follows:
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration