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Technical Report

Requirements for a Washington State Freight Simulation Model

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Publication: Transportation Northwest (TransNow)
Publication Date: 2009

In the face of many risks of disruptions to our transportation system, including natural disasters, inclement weather, terrorist acts, work stoppages, and other potential transportation disruptions, it is imperative for freight transportation system partners to plan a transportation system that can recover quickly from disruption and to prevent long-term negative economic consequences to state and regional economies. In this report we specify the requirements of a statewide freight resiliency model. We recommend a geographic information system (GIS)-based, multi-modal Washington state freight transportation network that can be augmented with complete state-wide commodity flow data. With this, the state will be able to improve freight planning and infrastructure investment prioritization. We provide recommendations regarding the scope of and methodology for a statewide freight model that will be developed from the GIS network. This model can be used to estimate the vulnerability of different economic industry sectors to disruptions in the transportation system and the economic impacts of those disruptions with in the State of Washington. The team interviewed public sector users to understand what applications are of value in a statewide freight model and applied the lessons learned through building the GIS and conducting two case studies to make recommendations for future work.

Over the last ten years, the U.S. transportation infrastructure has suffered from significant disruptions: for example, the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, the West Coast lockout of dock labor union members, and roadway failures following Hurricane Katrina. There is certainly an impression that these events are more common than in the past and that they come with an increasing economic impact. At the same time, supply chain and transportation management techniques have created lean supply chains, and lack of infrastructure development has created more reliance on individual pieces or segments of the transportation network, such as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and Washington States’ ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Disruptions, when they occur to essential pieces of the network, cause significant impacts. In particular, they cause significant damage to the economic system.

The relationship between infrastructure and economic activity, however, is not well understood. The development of a statewide freight model will allow WSDOT to better understand this relationship, and improve transportation system resilience.

Authors: Dr. Anne GoodchildDr. Ed McCormack, Eric Jessup
Recommended Citation:
Goodchild, A. , Jessup, E. , and McCormack, E. Requirements for a Washington State Freight Simulation Model. TNW2009-11. Transportation Northwest, University of Washington, 2009.