This report presents an economic assessment of the ability of a Land Ferry system to alleviate the increasing costs of maintaining the I-80 transportation corridor in Nevada. The project starts at Fernley, Nevada and ends at Wells, Nevada for a length of approximately 320 miles. The project scope includes creating a new alignment close to the existing I-80 highway and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) in order to run a Land Ferry system that will help reduce truck traffic along the I-80 Transportation Corridor.

Approximately 10% to 40% of the current volume in this commercial segment of I-80 is truck traffic. The alignment has proven to be vital in the decision-making process, since rail installation is very costly. To minimize the cost of the Land Ferry system, it is important to provide an alignment that uses the most effective route while limiting tunneling, excavation, and fills, since these will increase construction costs substantially.

Power generation for the locomotives is another aspect that needs to be addressed carefully. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) has looked into four different possible sources of energy, including solar, wind, geothermal, and several forms of diesel. The most economical choice for power generation was determined to be wind energy.

The Land Ferry system would not take business away from the existing businesses along the I-80 corridor. However, it may affect truck drivers, depending on how they are paid and taxed. On the other hand, using a Regional Input-Output Modelling System (RIMS II) model, it was estimated that the project would create over 45,788 jobs during the three-year construction period. Furthermore, the operation of the Land Ferry would create 318 permanent jobs.

This report provides a benefit-cost analysis of the Land Ferry project. Using a 40-year analysis period, both user and non-user benefits were quantified and compared to capital costs. The benefits and costs considered in this analysis include savings in travel time saving, reductions of accidents, savings in vehicle operating costs, reductions in vehicle emissions, project capital costs, and project operation and maintenance costs. Results from this analysis are summarized in Table 1.


Overall Benefits and Costs of the Land Ferry Project

Costs $4.36B Net Present Value $3.23B
Benefits $7.59B Benefit/Cost Ratio 1.7

As expected for this type of project, most of the benefits are in savings in travel time ($356.4M), savings in vehicle operating costs ($1000.4M), reduction of accidents ($674.7M), and pavement maintenance ($511.2M). These benefits are a consequence of the shift of trucks from I-80 to the Land Ferry, which leads to an improvement in pavement roughness. Rough pavements cause speed reductions, increase fuel consumption, and increase vehicle maintenance costs. The overall benefit-cost ratio (1.7) implies a cost-effective project.