The TPB is committed to giving full consideration to freight and goods movement needs in the overall regional transportation plan, through enhanced consideration of freight movement information, stakeholder outreach and input, and understanding of critical freight needs.
On July 21, 2010 the TPB approved the National Capital Region Freight Plan 2010. This is the first Freight Plan for the National Capital Region. It defines the role of freight in the region, provides information on current and forecasted conditions, indentifies regional freight concerns such as safety and security, and includes a National Capital Region Freight Project Database.
The transportation legislation MAP-21 identifies freight planning as a key consideration for metropolitan planning. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Transportation has placed increasing emphasis on freight planning as metropolitan areas face increasing pressures from growing freight traffic on their highways, railroads, seaports, and airports. A key component of the TPB Vision is economic considerations, including freight movement.
Estimated Regional Commodity Flows by Direction of Movement*
*Inbound, outbound, and intraregional numbers are based on 2002 FHWA Freight Analysis Framework data. Through traffic is based on 2003 estimate in Draft Maryland Freight Profile.
The TPB, therefore, addresses freight planning in the regional transportation planning process. While this region is not a large freight generator or goods producer, its large population and vibrant economy demand a responsive freight system. The region lies at the crossroads of several important national freight corridors and its highways and rail systems accommodate high volumes of through traffic. Mounting highway and rail congestion affects not only freight movement, but also passenger travel. Much of the growth in freight is occurring against a backdrop of continued growth in non-freight passenger movement, which especially presents challenges to metropolitan transportation systems. All regions depend upon the movement of goods, and the efficient flow of commodities benefit the regional economy.
In 2007, TPB commissioned a regional freight planning study for the metropolitan area. The study examined the state of freight movement in the region, and identified ways to improve consideration of freight in the regional transportation planning process. Following recommendations of this study, the TPB is actively working over the next several years to bolster the involvement of freight considerations and stakeholders in its processes, as well as coordinating with important freight planning activities of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia Departments of Transportation. The TPB Freight Subcommittee was launched in April 2008 and now holds bi-monthly meetings. These meetings cover goods movement topics of all modes, with a focus on truck and rail.
According to the study, the TPB region’s freight profile reflects its service-oriented economy, primarily a consumer of goods, not a producer. Approximately 222 million tons of goods, worth approximately $200 billion are transported to, from, or within the Washington region annually. In addition, an estimated 314 million tons of goods travel through the region annually (through-trips).
The value of freight moving inbound to the region is nearly twice that of the value of freight moving outbound, reflective of the region’s consumer and service-based economy and its relatively small manufacturing sector. Machinery, textile/leather, and electronics are the top freight commodities moving to, from, or within the region by value. The top freight commodities by weight transported to, from, or within the region are gravel, natural gas, selected coal products (used for some regional power generation), products of petroleum refining (excluding gasoline, aviation fuel, and fuel oil), and waste/scrap materials.
The TPB region’s freight transportation system is served by a variety of modes. Approximately three-quarters of freight movement traveling to, from, or within the Washington, D.C. region occurs by truck. The remainder of goods is primarily transported by rail, air, water, or a combination of modes. Each mode of transportation has characteristics that are appropriate for the movement of one type of commodity or another. For example, rail is well-suited for moving heavy, bulk freight traffic over long distances. In the region, the top commodities by weight being transported by rail are gravel and coal. In contrast, air transportation is well suited for transporting light, high-value, time sensitive goods, such as electronics and precision equipment.
Major highways constitute significant components of the region’s freight transportation system, including freeways and arterial highways. Note that trucks are prohibited from some of the region's highways, such as on I-66 inside the Beltway and federal parkways including the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Major rail lines run east-west and north-south through the region and are served by two Class I railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. The National Capital region is an important through corridor for freight rail shipments. Rail shipments moving to, from, and within the region comprise only five percent of total shipments.
All of the region’s major international airports handle air cargo, with Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) handling the majority. In June 2008 the Aviation Technical Subcommittee completed the Washington-Baltimore Air Cargo Study. The Study forecasts reveal that both IAD and BWI are expected to increase air cargo between 2010 and 2030.
A small portion of goods is transported by water on barges in the region. The Washington region is situated between two major ports, the Port of Baltimore and the Port of Hampton Roads/Norfolk. These two ports and surrounding jurisdictions play a large role in the goods movement of the Washington region, with goods transported to or through the region.
Looking to 2040, the TPB region is projected to experience a significant growth in freight, at a somewhat higher rate than the national average. All transportation modes are projected to move more tonnage to, from, and within the region by 2040.
For example, the upcoming Panama Canal expansion has the potential for significant growth for east coast ports and freight movement. The canal currently has capacity for 5,000 container (twenty-foot equivalent, TEU) ships. The future expanded Panama Canal will have capacity for 12,000 container TEU ships.
The Panama Canal expansion is anticipated to be complete in 2014. The East Coast Ports are gearing up in anticipation of the larger ships. For example, the Port of Virginia and private industry have worked to dredge and build port facilities capable of handling the largest container ships on the ocean. Their upgraded facility is currently the deepest port on the east coast. The Port of Virginia accommodates 50 foot depth ships with no air draft obstructions, and includes a mile long wharf.
Transportation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. Freight modes contribute 27.4 percent of total transportation greenhouse gas emissions. Of that 27.4 percent, 20.5 percent are attributable to trucking.
Truck and rail modes have developed new technologies to address GHGs and other air pollutants. For example, idle reductions technologies such as auxiliary power units are available for trucks and trains. Additional technologies are being employed in our region where the state departments of transportation have installed truck weigh-in-motion technology. This reduces truck idling time, fuel cost, emissions, and increases travel efficiency. Weigh-in-motion technology eliminates the need to pull trucks off the road unless there is a suspected violation.
TPB is working to utilize a number of strategies to ensure full consideration of freight in the regional planning process. Activities include maintaining contacts with key persons in the freight field, continuing to host our dedicated Freight Subcommittee meetings as well as other freight planning-related special events, keeping our freight section on the TPB's Web Site updated, and compilation and analysis of key freight movement data.
In order to maintain an active, consumer economy it is necessary to have reliable service and the consistent availability of goods. The TPB's full consideration of freight when planning for the region’s transportation system will help ensure that goods are able to flow efficiently.
For more information on freight planning in the National Capital Region, see the following pages: