Fall 2016 - 60510 - PA680PA - Policy Research Project | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2016 - 60510 - PA680PA - Policy Research Project

Texas Strategic Transportation Initiatives to Improve the State's Role as a Global Hub for International Trade & a Regional Hub for Domestic Trade


In 2014, the United States moved over $20 trillion in goods, of which $4 trillion involved international trade and $16 trillion domestic trade. Texas is a major participant in both types of trade. The state’s economy has grown strongly over the past five years based on its advanced manufacturing sectors (automobile, aerospace and aviation, and electronics industries), agriculture, and energy-related activities (oil and natural gas extraction, refining, and a variety of petrochemicals).

The distribution of these products to U.S., Mexican, South American, and Asian markets requires an efficient, reliable, and safe freight transportation and logistics system. This system is composed of a vast, complex and interconnected network of highways, rail lines, seaports, waterways, airports, and logistics hubs (where goods of are assembled, transferred, stored, etc.)


The client for this PRP is the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Students will work directly with TxDOT’s Strategic Initiatives Group and other key staff to identify, examine, and evaluate specific transportation initiatives that are designed to facilitate and promote greater domestic and international trade. These initiatives can range from programs offered by railroads to assist its customers in determining the fastest, most reliable, and cost efficient means of transporting their products and/or raw materials, to various forms of collaborative public-private partnerships (such as Mexico’s national logistics plan) or locating Foreign Trade Zones within full-service logistics hubs, to innovative infrastructure programs offered by other state departments of transportation.

In addition to assigned readings, invited public- and private-sector guest speakers will make classroom presentations over the course of the fall semester to provide students with necessary background information to conduct their research assignments. It is anticipated that students will travel to various locations within Texas (and perhaps out of state) to interview seaport, rail, Texas/Mexico border, public transport and trade experts, as well as to collect relevant information.

Participating students, working in teams, will produce Policy Briefs for each strategic initiative examined. They also will give presentations of key findings to TxDOT staff at the end of the spring semester.

The PRP is well suited for students interested in international transportation and trade (especially with respect to Mexico, South America, and Asia), the likely impacts of the Panama Canal and Suez Canal expansions, and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Fluency in Spanish is welcome. In addition, students will have the opportunity to learn about TxDOT’s freight planning activities, how private-sector firms plan and manage their supply chains in receiving and distributing final products, and the federal government’s role in infrastructure financing.

SRH 3.316/350