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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Port Planning and Investment Toolkit

In recent years, ports have emphasized their need for a go-to guide to plan, fund and execute critical repair and project upgrades. While the public largely remains unaware that ports receive and move out billions of dollars in goods today and will require the capacity to handle trillions of dollars’ worth of goods in the future, this topic is not new to port officials. These capabilities require costly investments and although ports have a history of entering public-private partnerships to operate their facilities, funding their modern intermodal freight projects is requiring the port industry to engage with a new, larger cast of public and private partners.

In order to help solve these challenges, the Department of Transportation and the American Association of Port Authorities brought together experts from around the port industry to develop an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, and easy-to-execute Port Planning and Investment Toolkit. This Toolkit is being built around modules on planning, funding and executing projects, with the goal of making navigating the best course of action to accomplish your goals easier and more user friendly than ever before. The toolkit modules can be used to help ports:

  • Evaluate port conditions
  • Define problems
  • Plan thoroughly
  • Navigate the preplanning process
  • Engage private partners
  • Present actionable needs to administrators
  • Access available funding
  • Complete project

Getting Started

The Toolkit is comprised of an Introduction & User’s Guide, three Modules (Planning, Feasibility and Financing), Appendices, a Resource Catalog and a Port Concession Evaluation Model.

Introduction & Users Guide

General Projects Module (Planning, Feasibility, and Funding)

Planning:  This module provides guidance to the Toolkit user when beginning to identify factors that must be addressed when planning a potential port project. This module provides clearly defined steps and requirements of the planning process needed for successfully financing a project.

Feasibility: This module addresses the process of refining a project plan by considering all aspects of cost, risk, and reward. This module includes approaches for measuring and evaluating the benefits and costs of project alternatives created during the planning stage.

Funding: Before ports make any large investment decisions or can get local, state, federal and private partners on board in support of repairs and upgrades, a funding strategy must be outlined defining the port’s objectives, strategies and timelines for finding specific forms of investment and delivery. The Maritime Administration and AAPA recognize each port investment project is unique with its own set of obstacles. Our team of industry experts developed the Funding Strategy module to guide careful evaluation and planning to determine the best approach for investment strategies that will get attention and garner support.

While the safe and easy transfer of goods and passengers is a port’s main function, each port has its own unique circumstances for financial needs and appropriate solutions. Your port may be faced with different needs than another, and also have different financial means to solve these problems. There is no one way to solve every port need. This module offers a range of solutions designed to address a variety of needs, as well as an example analysis tool that can be used to evaluate the financial feasibility of a port terminal concession.

Intelligent Demand Systems (ITS) Module

ITS Overview - e-Primer Version

Port Planning and Investment Toolkit - Marine Highway Module

The Port Planning and Investment Toolkit includes a Marine Highway Module.  The module was developed to highlight existing marine highway services that illustrate, in a practical way, the promise and extensive capacity of the domestic waterborne system and to integrate marine highways into the national, state, and local transportation planning process.

This module is intended to assist port owners, public agencies and private entities with the planning, evaluation, and financing of marine highway services that can alleviate landside transportation challenges. This module is currently being updated. 

This material is based upon work supported by the US Department of Transportation Maritime Administration under Agreement No DTMA-91-H-2013-004. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, the U.S. Government, the U.S. Department of Transportation, or any sub-agency or employee thereof.