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Intermodal Terminal Design for Autonomous Freight Pipeline System

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Abstract: This paper investigates the design and operation of an intermodal terminal for Underground Freight Transportation (UFT) system. UFT is considered as a new mode of autonomous freight transportation that uses pipelines for transporting freight between two intermodal terminals. The load size and route length of the UFT system can be variable depending on the purpose and specifications of the project. In this paper two sizes of loads and two route lengths are considered to show that the terminal design and operation are independent from route length and load size. Each UFT route starts at the Port of Houston where shipping container or pallet size loads will be delivered to the UFT system. The short-haul route ends at a proposed intermodal satellite terminal outside Houston and the long-haul route terminates in a proposed intermodal inland port in Dallas. This paper develops inclusive equations to estimate the operational attributes of the UFT intermodal terminal. These attributes include operational headway, system flow, fleet size, and number of handlers forklifts required in operation of the terminal. Based on the terminal operation requirements, a typical design for a UFT intermodal terminal is presented. In addition, the loading unloading process and the freight circulation scheme are discussed. Although, this schematic terminal design and operation are for shipping container loads, but the same concept can be applied to smaller scale loads such as pallets.

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