The results of a $650,000 feasibility study — made possible recently with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy — could determine the near-term role in border applications of the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Freight Shuttle, a revolutionary cargo movement concept developed by Assistant Agency Director Steve Roop. The study is examining the practicability of using the Freight Shuttle to move goods at the border crossing from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas.
“Congested border crossings are an enormous obstacle to trade and have long been a source of security concerns, particularly on our southern border,” Roop says. “The Freight Shuttle has the potential to alleviate the freight bottlenecks and speed up the security-screening process and at the same time improve the air quality in these communities.”
Roop’s Freight Shuttle consists of a series of specially designed transport vehicles that carry freight containers and truck trailers. They will travel on an elevated guideway, propelled up to 60 miles per hour by electric powered linear induction motors. He envisions the use of a drive-through scanning station (also developed by TTI) enabling the freight to be checked without stopping. The station would be operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The feasibility study in El Paso is being supported by Research Engineer Rafael Aldrete-Sanchez with assistance from Research Engineer Bob Trotter, who brings to TTI an extensive background in customs and border protection issues. According to Roop, “Customs and Border Protection is a key part of the process.” Trotter has been instrumental in setting up meetings about the potential international trade benefits of the Fright Shuttle with DHS.
The extensive study will examine important aspects of using the Freight Shuttle at border crossings including capital investment and operational costs, bi-national cooperation, understanding the commercial issues, as well as the community and air quality benefits that reduced truck traffic can yield.
“If the study shows that the Freight Shuttle makes sense at the border, the ultimate jury on commercial viability is the private sector,” Roop says.