NCRRP Project 12-02: Strategic Plan/Research Agenda

Project: Research project

Project Details


This is to express our strong interest in taking on NCRRP Project 12-02: Strategic Plan/Research Agenda. Northwestern University would be the contracting agent, our Transportation Center would be the operating unit, and I would lead our team as Principal Investigator. This project is important and timely. It should serve as the foundation for the NCRRP research program, and it must support a diverse and complex industry that has been, and increasingly is, essential to the nation’s economic strength. We believe this plan must define an ongoing process that tracks progress and needs, adjusting priorities and the research agenda to respond to achievements, opportunities, and changing contextual conditions. During the past three decades, national, regional, and local railroads that move bulk, general, and intermodal freight, and national and metropolitan passenger services, have rebounded from years of decline and disinvestment to regain their role as primary contributors to economic competitiveness, road congestion reduction, environmental quality, and energy independence. Over this period, class I roads alone have achieved a nearly 70% increase in ton-miles carried, with fewer employees, at lower costs in money and energy – 67% reduction in gallons of fuel per ton-mile. While safety remains a challenge to railroads as it does to other modes, fatalities have declined 70% in the last 3 decades. Revenue per employee has grown by more than a factor of 4. Both route miles and ridership of commuter rail have been growing, reflecting the spread of development, the desire of commuters to avoid congestion and to make more productive use of their travel time, and opportunistic investments on the part of regional transportation agencies. Amtrak ridership growth since 2000 has exceeded 50%, seats are hard to get on some routes, and the willingness of states to invest in intercity passenger services has grown substantially. Of course, with growth and efficiency improvements come new challenges, and external factors (e.g., weather extremes, energy price increases) and trends (e.g., globalization of manufacturing, shifting production locations and distribution patterns) add more.
Effective start/end date3/11/132/13/14


  • National Academy of Sciences (NCRRP R12-02/031400-1009/SUB000240 // NCRRP R12-02/031400-100...)
  • Federal Railroad Administration (NCRRP R12-02/031400-1009/SUB000240 // NCRRP R12-02/031400-100...)


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