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Measuring Improvements in the Movement of Highway and Intermodal Freight

This measure would be very much dominated by effects that have little or nothing to do with freight movement given that most travel takes places for personal mobility. Further, even if it were limited to costs of freight movement, it would not be providing a useful measure of performance.  Rising total costs could simply reflect rising freight shipments in an expanding economy, or rising use of freight movement relative to other inputs to production and distribution.

Maintenance costs

Spending on highways is not a measure of freight productivity, even if one focuses on routes of particular importance to freight. More spending could indicate an improvement in road condition or it could indicate wasteful spending.

Jobs created

The number of direct and indirect jobs created by a highway project tells nothing of how the project will affect freight movement or whether the project is worthwhile.

Net present value or benefit/cost ratio

These are measures of the value of highway investments. They do not tell one the degree to which project benefits reflect freight performance.

Value of transportation-related goods and services delivered

This is not really a measure of freight productivity or the implications of highway investment on freight.

Number of at-grade railroad crossings

Number of overpasses with inadequate vertical clearance

Number of weight-restricted bridges

Number of intersections with inadequate turning radii for large trailer

These are all design features which can be impedances for freight movement.  Their total number is not a useful measure because many of them are likely to be on routes not heavily used for freight purposes. Further, these features are unlikely to be common on the NHS.

Average load factors / percent of vehicle miles empty

Average length of haul

Ton-miles per unit of labor

Multi-factor industry productivity measures

These are all measures of equipment utilization or labor productivity used within the motor carrier industry. They do not bear a direct relationship to the highway system or address quality or satisfaction with freight service.

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