Freight

Over a Decade of Freight Planning

Since the adoption of OKI’s first regional freight plan in 2011, OKI has continued to collect, analyze and share the most current freight data. At freight.oki.org, interactive maps and dashboards have been created to visually-communicate the most current surface transportation data for our road, rail, river and runway freight modes. Due to federal restrictions, OKI has not created visualizations showing pipeline, the fifth freight mode, data.

road, rail, river runway pipeline illustrations

2023 OKI Freight Plan

Recognizing the link between freight transportation mobility and economic development, OKI prepared a new Freight Plan that was approved by the Board of Directors in September 2023 to understand industry trends and forecast freight demand across all five freight modes. The Freight Plan resulted in the identification of a combined 147 project, program, planning study and policy recommendations.

cover of Freight SWOT document

Source: The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI). (2023).

Existing Freight Network Performance

Information from more than 75 unique datasets was collected as part of the Freight Plan’s development to provide a historical record of the region’s changing freight conditions over the past decade since completion of the first OKI Regional Freight Plan in 2011, as well as a current-day snapshot of our state of freight.

The assessment of the region’s existing multimodal freight system performance covers the five key goal areas: Safety; Infrastructure Condition; Mobility and Reliability; Environmental Sustainability; and Economic Competitiveness for each freight mode (Road, Rail, River, Runway, and Pipeline).

Future Freight Network Performance

For the near future, the OKI Freight Plan has established that the five freight modes will remain unchanged in their critical roles in moving goods. As this diagram shows, each mode is designed to transport diverse types of cargo, based on the product’s value; weight; size and volume; travel distance; transportation costs; and time-sensitivity for delivery.

However, as we have witnessed over the past few years, more frequent natural and human events — such as driver shortages, COVID, flooding, and droughts (which disrupt the use of one or more freight modes) — will raise both the opportunity and need for flexible and reliable modal shifts between road, rail, river, air, and pipeline.

Stacked chart shows the five freight transportation modes and how the products they move differ based on time sensitivity, value, distance, and weight.

Source: HDR, Inc. (2023).

Freight Recommendations

For the 2050 OKI Plan’s recommended priorities, all 115 freight improvements were considered. They are intended to enhance the efficiency, safety, accessibility, and/or sustainability of the freight transportation network. This can involve the construction, expansion, or renovation of freight transportation infrastructure. This applies to roads, bridges, highways, airports, river ports, railroads, and pipelines. It can also include adopting new technology. The aim of a freight project is to supply a more reliable and efficient transportation system, reduce travel time and cost, and enhance the overall quality of life for users of the transportation network.

In addition to the 115 project recommendations, the plan also included:

  • 9 program recommendations that are activities to study the feasibility or effect of freight transportation opportunities within the OKI region. These may include pilot or demonstration projects that would help inform stakeholders and enable the developing and deploying innovative freight solutions. These would help reduce fuel consumption, minimize travel times, and enhance overall freight efficiency. The aim of a freight program is to maximize the public benefit of future freight transportation investments, as well as minimize economic loss and wasted time.
  • 13 planning study recommendations that propose a comprehensive analysis of a particular freight transportation issue or location. A study typically involves an evaluation of existing transportation infrastructure, usage patterns such as volume, speed and travel time, demographic trends, economic factors, and other relevant data. Based on this analysis, freight planning studies may suggest project or operational improvements to increase safety, reduce congestion and better serve the needs of freight stakeholders and the community. A planning study recommendation is intended to give decision-makers practical guidance and actionable strategies to inform their transportation planning and investment decisions.
  • 10 policy recommendations that propose a course of action designed to guide the development and implementation of freight transportation policies, programs, and regulations. It may involve proposals for specific actions or initiatives, such as investment in freight transportation or the promotion of alternative freight modes to increase safety, environmental sustainability, or economic competitiveness. The aim of a transportation policy recommendation is to provide decision-makers with actionable guidance that can help achieve their goals and improve the overall efficiency, reliability, and sustainability of the freight transportation system.

Ultimately, the success of the regional freight plan will depend on the partnerships and collaboration of the public and private sectors. Railroads, trucking interests, barge terminals and air cargo carriers will need to collaborate to address the transportation challenges facing OKI and the region over the next 30 years.

Collaboration, Cooperation and Communication with State and Federal Freight Partners

This 2050 Plan incorporates the Freight Plan to address regional challenges and support state freight planning strategies. It is also mandated to address the overarching federal freight directives of ensuring safe, efficient, and reliable movement of freight continued from The FAST Act into the current federal surface transportation authorization act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) also known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” or “BIL” that was signed into law by President Biden on Nov. 15, 2021.

IIJA mandated that states update their freight plans every four years. OKI also adopted this time schedule for updating our regional freight plan. In this manner, OKI and our three member states will have used the most current freight conditions, trends and forecasts to best inform our metropolitan transportation planning process.

Select an individual freight plan for more details.

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