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Freight Related Analytics

When done well, freight is nearly invisible. Goods are moved best when they are moved cleanly, cheaply, safely, and unobtrusively, posing as little interruption as possible to the communities through which goods-movements pass. Preserving and improving this sort of freight mobility in an era of increasing population densities, congested transportation networks, and uncompromising environmental standards is an immense challenge, but it is one that is welcomed by CTR. Like many of the academic programs at the University of Tennessee, the Center is deeply rooted in the University’s long-standing commitment to understanding freight transportation and educating new generations of freight industry professionals.

Modal Expertise & Intermodal Awareness

CTR faculty and staff include a number of nationally recognized specialists in individual freight modes. For example, Dr. David Clarke is widely recognized for his role in freight railway engineering and railway engineering education. Similarly, as noted elsewhere, Dr. Larry Bray is among a handful of preeminent experts in inland waterborne commerce, while Dr. Mark Burton specializes in both railroad and barge freight transportation.

At the same time CTR faculty and staff researchers are also heavily engaged in combining individual freight modes in ways that improve all-around social, economic and environmental outcomes. According, Drs. Clarke, Bray, and Burton have all been engaged in intermodal freight planning efforts throughout the region and across the nation. Activities have included evaluating proposed intermodal facilities, improving intermodal terminal security, and guiding the public policies that bring together public sector and private sector entities in partnerships that promote intermodal freight transportation use.

Freight Transportation & Livable Communities

Unlike most businesses, goods movement openly places freight carriers on Interstate highways, city streets, and in backyards across every city, town, and countryside in America. Generally, the goal is to minimize the contact between the public and the truckers, railroads, and barge lines that move freight. However, completely separating freight from other activities is impossible. When freight movement and the more general public can’t be kept apart, the goal becomes to move freight as safely, cleanly, and unobtrusively as possible in order to safeguard livable communities.

CTR is involved in any number of projects to assure that we sustain livable communities even as we move freight efficiently from one place to another. For example, at the local level, Dr. Mark Burton and Dr. Chris Cherry are working to help cities and towns address the “last-mile” freight issue. At the same time, Dr. David Clarke and Dr. Lee Hahn are working to improve freight transportation safety, particularly on and near freight terminal facilities. At the same time, other CTR professionals like Mareike Ortmann and Matthew Cate work with individual communities to assure they have the freight connectivity they need, while preserving the other community attributes they value.

Representative Freight Partnerships

CTR is constantly adding to its list of freight-related partnerships as evolving transportation needs bring about new projects. A representative list of current partnership includes:

  • Appalachian Regional Commission
  • Association of American Railroads
  • Coalition for America’s Gateways and Corridors
  • CSX Transportation
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • Mississippi Department of Transportation
  • National Waterways Foundation
  • Norfolk Southern
  • RJ Corman Railroad(s)
  • Tennessee Department of Transportation
  • US Army Corp of Engineers


In late 2000, Drs. David Clarke and Mark Burton became part of a close-knit team of university, public-sector, and railroad industry professionals charged with exploring the development of an intermodal corridor between the port of Norfolk and the upper Midwest. This team explored alternative routings, documented engineering requirements and costs, and evaluated the various economic effects of what was to eventually become Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor. Not only has the now-completed Heartland measurably improved freight service within and between the four states it serves, it has emerged as a model for similar public-private intermodal partnerships across the U.S.

Freight Transportation contact:

Dr. Mark Burton, 865.974.4358

Media contact:

Lissa Gay, 865.974.8760