One of the first things readers will notice of the RFS is that it is designed as web-based document. This approach creates more of a “living document,” it allows for easier input from the technical representatives from the states, and the document can be updated with new data and information as it becomes available. Freight professionals are well aware of the complexities and interrelations among the data and information, the various industries and businesses, and the geography and transportation system. The links and the referencing available in a web document allows a more full story to be told and provide easy access to those relevant ideas, data or case studies.
Where possible the tables, graphics and alike in the RFS are provided in an extractable and useable format for MAFC members and freight advocates. This information is often also provided in a graphic format in order that states and their partners have the information they need for presentations and planning documents that will help create champions and position freight projects for needed funding.
The contrasts between the RFS and state freight plans should also be noted. In the MAFC RFS, the regional freight system and its national linkages are presented as a multimodal freight and economic network stretching across the MAFC region and interconnected with the national network. Further, each of the modes is addressed independently as well as in the context of state and regional freight movement, and the national and global economic and logistics trends that are shaping our freight world. The RFS also addresses current as well as futuristic energy, economic, and logistics trends. These are far-reaching global changes and combined with the RFS analysis provide a map of the future possibilities of freight and economic development in the MAFC region.
The RFS is also designed to be a working, policy-support document. With MAP-21 and a continued focus on the need for, and benefits of multi-state collaboration, the RFS presents the MAFC freight network in light of current MAP-21 policy and anticipated future trajectories. In the RFS we necessarily skirt the work of the state freight planner and state projects. While we recognize the importance of these components to the regional and national freight trajectory, the RFS will support and draw from state and local freight plans but necessarily assumes the regional and national perspectives. This provides for an extension to state freight plans across state borders to assist in multistate projects. Secondly, this perspective provides for representation of the MAFC multimodal regional freight systems in the national policy context. As a major freight region, ensuring that our freight assets are recognized and incorporated in the national freight agenda will prove critical in a funding-constrained and performance-based future.
Another major difference between this RFS and a state freight plan lies in the approach towards freight projects and programs. The RFS does not identify and list specific projects. Further, the regional freight study does not face the normal fiscal constraints of the state planning process. The RFS does, however, link the state project and policy context in a manner that provides support and justification for freight development across the MAFC states in the context of MAP-21 and a performance-based development.
It is also important to note that the MAFC RFS represents a collaborative effort between the 10 MAASTO states and their planning partners, CFIRE/MAFC staff, and the transportation and economic development related agencies. It is through this collaboration that the RFS document will ultimately provide actionable, timely, innovative and benefit-producing initiatives for regional freight development.
The Coalition efforts teamed with the recognition of the importance of multi-state projects by USDOT is expected to lead to initiatives in multistate, multi-jurisdictional projects. This same collaboration between states can be expected to yield benefits in terms of multistate operational and management improvements that increase freight efficiencies.