MOVING GOODS VIA ROADWAYS
In 2017, HATS completed a Regional Freight Plan. The plan shows that the region is in a prime location when it comes to freight and goods movement. It is within one day’s drive of 40 percent of the US population, which represents 60 percent of the nation’s buying power.
While the region’s freight system is multimodal, its roadways are the backbone, making up a 5,000-mile network. The Harrisburg area is crossed by several major interstates including Interstate 81, Interstate 83, Interstate 283, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76), making up 120 miles of its freight network, and has nearly 325 miles in National Highway System routes. The region’s interstates comprise only 4 percent of the entire regional roadway network, yet they facilitate over a third of all travel.
While 6 percent of all travel in Pennsylvania runs through the Harrisburg region, it carries 8 percent of total truck traffic. There are several areas of high truck activity in the region, including: Mechanicsburg, which houses the Naval Support Activity, Capital City Mall, and several warehouses; Harrisburg, notably the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Yards in Susquehanna and Swatara Townships and warehousing activity along I-83 at the Eisenhower Interchange and the interchange at Union Deposit Road; and Carlisle, which includes the growing Allen Road interchange off of I-81. These are just a few examples of the many commercial and industrial centers located in the Tri-County Region.
Eighty-five percent of the region’s exports moves by trucks on roadways. Interstate 81 by far carries the largest volume of truck traffic with the most segments carrying between 7,500 and 12,000 trucks daily. In terms of commodity flow, the HATS region is expected to export 38.7 million tons of goods valued at $35.8 billion and import 30.7 million tons valued at $81.3 billion in 2040. This shows a 73.2 percent and 76 percent change in tonnage respectively.
The Regional Freight Plan’s defined trends show an increasing demand for goods movement based on the forecasts for Transportation and Warehousing employment. Movement of retail goods (truck trips to distribution centers, etc.) has an implied upward trend with modest increases in Retail Trade and e-Commerce. With the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016, larger container ships are being accommodated, and the Suez Canal now allows for two-way travel. While these lanes of travel are far away from the immediate HATS region, the implications and impacts are more close to home. The ports of Baltimore, New York, Norfolk, and southeast Pennsylvania will get busier, meaning more cargo for trucks and railroads to carry. Major truck and rail corridors will see increased demand in the immediate future and will continue to grow through 2040.
In 2016, HATS identified almost 50 miles of candidate Critical Urban and Critical Rural Freight Corridors (CUFCs, CRFCs) to be considered for certification by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This certification would allow the corridors to be added to the National Highway Freight Network and make them eligible for National Highway Freight Program funding. At the time of this plan update, the candidate corridors are still under review by PennDOT and will eventually be passed to FHWA for consideration and possibly certification. Moving forward, these corridors continue to be primary areas of focus for HATS as key freight movement corridors along with the existing National Highway Freight Network.
The key strategies and actions from the Regional Freight Plan that apply to freight movement by trucks and roadways include:
- Address regional interstate capacity, existing freight bottlenecks, and spot improvements;
- Continue to monitor system performance for freight and mobility per national freight performance measures;
- Address the region’s needs for truck parking;
- Address intersections with substandard turning radii;
- Improve motor carrier safety by identifying truck crash clusters;
- Minimize truck traffic on lower-order roadways.