Scope of Work for I-80 Land Ferry/Steel Interstate Phase II Assessment


Nevada DOT and the University of Nevada Las Vegas conducted an internally funded concept overview of the Land Ferry along the I-80 Corridor (Phase I) and determined a benefit/cost ratio of 1.7 with over seven billion dollars in benefits to Nevada. Phase II will build on what we know from the Phase I Engineering and Economic Assessment, and video. To gain economies of scale, the research is proposed to be between Oakland, Calif. and Salt Lake City, Utah.


There are two main purposes for the Phase II Assessment. First is to assess the feasibility of the system. As part of this, special attention will need to be given to the Railroad, the Trucking Industry and the States, but other groups will also need to be taken into consideration. Also as part of this first purpose, the life-cycle costs and benefits will be analyzed. Second is to build a plan going forward. Special attention will be given to regulations to overcome, funding, and other elements critical to the plan. Also, as part of this second purpose, additional items to be studied in Phase III will be determined.

Integral Tasks

In order to fulfill the above two purposes, the following research tasks are proposed at a minimum for Phase II

Purpose I, Build a Business Case Railroads


  • Define the costs of upgrading the rail corridor between study endpoints to permit the speed, capacity, and reliability necessary for a Land Ferry
  • Evaluate operational scenarios in which short-haul rail capacity is increased. This may be accomplished with siding extensions and additional mainline tracks to accommodate existing Union Pacific Railroad traffic, and new traffic to be evaluated in the Phase II Assessment: Land Ferry, Salt Lake Inland Port, Reno-Sparks-Fernley Multimodal Hub, Por of Oakland
  • Define the new market opportunity for the railroad, from Land Ferry and other conventional railway business, (e.g., unit train, carload, and intermodal), gained from a rail corridor upgraded to Steel Interstate standards
  • Evaluate options for rail operating scenarios of Land Ferry; e.g., Union Pacific, private contractor, and public/private consortium.
  • Determine any issues with rail labor, other railroad concerns, and how they can be addressed.
  • Define liability and regulatory issues of concern to the railroad, (e.g., indemnity for risks associated with carrying passengers aboard Land Ferry trains).
  • Estimate the value of a catenary transmission line in the corridor generating rents to the Railroad.
  • Estimate the value of the Federal Transit Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration capital programs to the Railroad.
  • Compare terminal operations for simple roll-on, roll-off and side loading operations and when each should be used
  • Determine a break even distance of a Land Ferry type of service. This will affect the less than seven hundred mile market not currently captured by the Railroad
  • Define the benefits and drawbacks to the Railroad in operating a Land Ferry on transit type of schedules
  • Current and proposed capacity of Railroad between Sacramento and Salt Lake City
  • Examine specifically the incremental cost and benefits of electrification
  • Determine if there is a time and cost savings to the Railroad for its other operations.


  • Define the current trucking volume and consensus 2040 projections for the study endpoints.
  • Define the potential through trucker population that would represent the feasible market for a Land Ferry.
  • Define the cost of a Land Ferry operation to potential truck users.
  • Define productivity savings to truckers from a highway-competitive Land Ferry operation.
  • Examine economics and feasibility of various truck loading and unloading schemes.
  • Define liability and regulatory issues of importance to truckers; e.g., on- board time qualifying as mandatory rest period.
  • Evaluate other trucker concerns as advanced by stakeholders and group.
  • Estimate effects on driver retention. Could a driver be home more frequently?
  • Estimate the benefit and cost of truck parking along the corridor.

The States

  • Determine the avoided cost savings from reduced investment required in highway construction and maintenance from truck diversion to Land Ferry.
  • Define relevance and applicability of results from the I-80 Corridor study to other corridors.
  • Further evaluate corollary jobs, economic, and development benefits to the States from deployment of a Land Ferry operation in the study corridor.
  • Further evaluate the reduced social costs in pollution, crashes, and congestion associated with reduced heavy truck volume on the I-80 study corridor.
  • Detail estimation of the cost for designing, building and operating the Land Ferry system. This will include the potential and environmental benefits from use of local energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal for rail electrification in the study corridor.
  • Define the reduced environmental impact from not widening I-80.
  • Determine environmental permitting requirements likely to be encountered in upgrading the rail corridor to Steel Interstate standards for Land Ferry trains.
  • Determine the amount of benefits and quantify those benefits on achieving our national goals by implementing a Land Ferry.
  • Quantify negative and positive impacts in the corridor by constructing a Land Ferry system.
  • Model how a Land Ferry system would interact with vehicles of the future.
  • Estimate the benefit of having a resilient alternative to weather events on states economies.

Other Groups

  • Estimate the benefit to the power companies of having additional transmission lines by using a catenary system.
  • Estimate the value of an electrified Land Ferry system to the power companies.
  • Estimate the benefit to the emerging electric truck and vehicle industries.
  • Estimate time and cost savings to the shippers such as UPS, FedEx or US Postal Service by using a Land Ferry.

Purpose II, Build a Plan Going Forward

  • Study of regulations and potential mechanisms to make it financially beneficial for truckers to use the land ferry. This includes, among other aspects, the development of routes, schedules, and frequencies for the land ferry to provide opportunities for truckers to benefit from using the land ferry while factoring for driver effective working time. Investigate what changes are required so that the existing legislation allows the construction and operation of the proposed Land Ferry system
  • Determine regulatory barriers that need to be addressed (e.g., carrying passengers on a freight train).
  • Study of alternative financing mechanisms for the Land Ferry system.
  • Determine the best funding options for the Land Ferry and other large- scale transportation projects.
  • Develop a stakeholder working group.
  • Develop an outreach plan which includes improvement to the current UNLV website.

    This is the proposed Phase II scope. The final scope will be determined by talking to stakeholders.


Quarterly updates on the study’s progress will be due to Nevada DOT and the study stakeholders. A draft management summary will be furnished after nine months and feedback considered for fine-tuning the study direction and conduct. A management summary will be due after one year from the outset of the study, with the completed study text completed within three months thereafter

Future Studies

If a Phase III study is justified by the Phase II study, additional stakeholders will become involved or more engaged. Some of these additional stakeholders would be MPOs, the FTA, FRA, FHWA and the Port of Oakland. Items that might be considered for study would be:
  • Feasibility analysis of additional intermodal terminals coupled with the Land Ferry system.
  • Magnitude of total freight into and out of each Port of interest and its origin and final destination by commodity.
  • Mode of arrival and departure into and out of each Port of interest and its origin and final destination by commodity.
  • Current cost of shipping by mode and commodity into and out of each Port of interest and its origin and final destination.
  • Current and proposed capacity of each port of interest.
  • Cost (in dollars and time) of shipping to and from the Pacific Rim nations via expanded Panama Canal in comparison to same cost using western ports and land transport to significant destinations on the gulf coast, Midwest, and eastern seaboard.
  • Cost (in dollars and time) of shipping to and from Ports of interest via a Land Ferry compared to existing options, (e.g. direct drayage of international containers, or transload to/from domestic highway equipment at the Port.)
  • Time and cost savings to Ports by investing in a Land Ferry facility.
  • Feasibility analysis of various network corridors for the Land Ferry system.