Proposed Land Ferry Research

Problem title

Viability assessment of a “Land Ferry System” in the I-11 corridor between Las Vegas Nevada and Phoenix Arizona.

Problem Description

The concept of the Land Ferry system is illustrated through an animation provided in: or

An initial feasibility study of a Land Ferry system along the I-80 corridor in Nevada has been completed by the Transportation Research Center (TRC) at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The study showed an opportunity to gain long term financial benefits by constructing a Land Ferry to handle some of the heavy truck traffic currently using I-80. This concept has also been added as a long term option in the I-80 corridor study between San Francisco, California to Cheyenne Wyoming, (page 43). The study was also selected for presentation at the national 2015 TRB annual meeting. Special aspects of the project that were not considered during the previous analysis will be considered in this proposed study. Though not directly included in the I-80 research, indications showed that other significant benefits could be made towards achieving our national and state goals, (refer to first video). Only minor incremental steps towards achieving our national and state transportation goals will be made if we continue with our current transportation paradigm. Over time, these deficiencies will become apparent in the I-11 corridor if it is constructed under our current transportation practices. We cannot expect different results using the same methods. In order to achieve our goals, a paradigm change is needed in our overall transportation strategies. A Land Ferry system will be evaluated on how it could achieve the goals set out for the I-11 corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas, (See second video) while serving as a model for other corridors within Nevada, Arizona and the entire nation. This research could indicate significant benefits in the areas of safety, freight movement, sustainable infrastructure, congestion reduction, transit connectivity, system reliability during weather events, environmental sustainability, carbon dioxide reduction, promotion of alternative vehicles and economic growth. This study will also indicate if a Land Ferry concept is a viable component in the I-11 corridor between Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada.


The objectives of this research are to:
  1. analyze the benefits among the current proposed transportation scenarios in the I-11 corridor and one including the Land Ferry. Compare benefits to safety, freight movement, sustainable infrastructure, congestion reduction, transit connectivity, system reliability during weather events, environmental sustainability, carbon dioxide reduction, promotion of alternative vehicles and economic growth.
  2. develop a framework and methodology for calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) for the construction of the Land Ferry system in the I-11 corridor,
  3. apply that framework and methodology to determine the ROI for this project so as to facilitate decision-making and implementation,
  4. identify the appropriate Alternative Project Delivery (APD) method to construct and operate this project which will include alternative funding options,
  5. investigate what changes are required so that the existing legislation allows the construction and operation of the proposed Land Ferry system,
  6. develop a stake holder working group, and
  7. develop an outreach plan which will include improvement to the current website.

The fulfillment of the first objective will help determine if a land ferry system should be considered as a viable alternative in the I-11 corridor. The fulfillment of the second objective will develop a ROI estimation methodology that can be used in any future corridor studies. The third objective will help to know the most accurate number in terms of ROI for this corridor. The fourth objective will identify the best project delivery method to build and operate the Land Ferry so as to maximize benefits. As suggested by NDOT, particular consideration will be given to the Design, Construct, Operate, and Maintain method. The funding component of this section will be critical. Funding alternatives such as qualified private activity bonds for funding an infrastructure development bank, along with other funding strategies will be reviewed. The fifth objective will take care of the legal aspects associated with the construction, operation and funding of the Land Ferry in the corridor. The sixth objective is to develop a stake holder working group for the land ferry. The current I-11 study will be the starting bases for this group. The seventh objective is to help educate the public, political figures and businesses on the land ferry system.

Current Practice and Related Research

The initial feasibility study conducted by UNLV has been presented during the 94th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington DC. In addition, the research team has been specially invited to present the study results during the 2015 annual meeting of the Freight Transportation Economics and Regulation Committee. This clearly indicates the interest by other transportation groups on the proposed Land Ferry concept. The Wyoming Department of Transportation (DOT) has conducted a feasibility study of a roll on roll off system to relieve heavy truck traffic along I-80 in Wyoming. The study showed positive results related to the success of the land ferry system in the state of Wyoming. However, the study conducted by the Wyoming DOT did not include detailed investigation to determine the ROI of the project nor how to build the project. There is significant research available to identify best project delivery methods in terms of cost, schedule, change orders, and less risk involved (Shrestha et al., 2013). Research indicates that the selection of right APD method is key for the successful construction and operation of any transportation project.

Research Methodology

One of the problems in the evaluation of the ROI for the Land Ferry system is that construction costs are loaded on the front-end while benefits from the use of the system continue to grow and accrue over time as use of the systems matures and processes improves. Cost factors involve both capital cost of construction of the Land Ferry system and operational expenses. Benefits are often much more difficult to define monetarily than costs because in this case they are both tangible and intangible. Benefits are generally measured in terms of collection of tolls, maintenance cost savings of the I-11 highway, and environmental cost savings. The study will identify the best APD method that can be used to achieve maximum benefits. Therefore, the research methodology will focus on developing the framework for ROI calculation as well as determining the method for identifying the best APD method for this project. The following figure shows the suggested research methodology to be used in this study.

In this study, the research team will conduct a sample survey of the proposed alignment of the Land Ferry system to collect the data required for estimating construction costs. The survey will collect data from various stake holders that will potentially use the system. This data will be used to calculate the ROI of the Land Ferry. If the project seems economically viable, then the appropriate delivery system to build the project will be determined.

Implementation Potential

By funding this research, road blocks to overcoming the introduction of this type of system into the US could be overcome. Other corridors have successfully implemented role on role off system to address truck traffic problems. The land ferry concept is a much more modern approach that is truly multi model while providing opportunity for seamless integration of future technologies such as autonomous vehicles. Changes to the legislation or the use of financial methods such as Design, Construct, Operate, and Maintain will be required. The potential benefits are substantial and the technology and resources are available to undertake this type of required projects.

Urgency & Pay-off Potential:

Several countries have already started implementing similar but different Land Ferry concepts with an estimated decrease in shipping cost of up to 10% along with many other benefits, ( There are many other foreign examples of the US falling behind in this technology. Nevada and Arizona have the ideal location, need and project in the I-11 corridor for a land ferry system. The introduction of this type of modern transportation system would help insure that Nevada and Arizona stay economically competitive nationally and internationally.

Estimated Budget

The estimated budget is $300k.

Date & Submitted by

September 30, 2014 by Alexander Paz, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 454015 Las Vegas, NV 89154-4015; Ph: (702) 895-0571; Email:

NDOT CHampion, Coordination & Involvement

Mr. Steve Merrill, Chief Location Engineer
Mr. Amir Soltani, Project Management Chief
Mr. Paul Frost, Chief Road Design Engineer
Mr. Ken Mammen, Chief Safety Engineer