Ships, planes, trains, and trucks are the focus of a new University of Delaware partnership with the state of California. Along with collaborators at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), UD researchers are helping the state better assess the environmental impacts of intermodal freight transportation within and across state borders.
As products are manufactured and transported overseas to major markets, more goods are shipped to and from a nation’s ports within a domestic freight transportation infrastructure that includes ships, planes, trains, and trucks — often in the form of containerized cargo across those modes. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, about 40 percent of all U.S. containerized cargo comes through California ports alone.
Increasing global freight transportation heightens concerns about air quality and climate change.
“The freight sector is the fastest growing transportation activity in terms of increased energy use and carbon dioxide emissions,” said UD Professor of Marine Policy James Corbett. “It is almost always engaged in heavily populated communities and relies almost exclusively on diesel, which has been proven to have effects on the environment and human health.”
In their partnership with California, the researchers will help the state model strategies for reducing the impact of freight transportation on humans and the environment. In particular, they will support California’s efforts to provide an overall environmental “footprint” of freight movement within the state.
The researchers will use the Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transportation model or GIFT, a GIS-based modeling program jointly developed by the University of Delaware and RIT that evaluates the environmental impacts of goods movement. University of Delaware collaborators on the development of GIFT included Corbett, of the College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES), and members of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the University Transportation Center.
GIFT integrates three freight transport modes (road, rail, and water) in a single GIS network, which allows users to conduct route analyses based on such network attributes as cost, time, distance, energy use, and emissions. Previous systems of this type were only able to focus on one mode of transit, reducing the accuracy of the models created and ignoring the potential economic, energy, and environmental benefits of intermodal freight transportation.
“GIFT was created to assist government agencies and private companies in better understanding how different transportation policies and supply chain decisions may impact the environment,” noted Scott Hawker, assistant professor of software engineering at RIT and member of the GIFT research team.
The project is being funded through the California Air Resources Board of the California Environmental Protection Agency and also includes scientists and engineers from RIT, the Eastern Research Group, and SDV/ACCI Inc.
For more about CMES, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.