New industrial developments require updated freight infrastructure

Posted in: Bridges, Highways


Freight 1The movement of freight is an important part of a fully functioning transportation system. Within and throughout a region, it is critically important to industry, retail, agriculture and trade. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration Office of Freight Management and Operations, truck freight movement accounts for 68 percent of the total tonnage of all freight moved in the United States. Moreover, one out of every 13 employed in the US private sector are in a trucking-related job, generating $660 billion in annual revenues.

Let’s take a closer look at a Wisconsin case study. Freight trucking accounts for almost 90 percent all freight tonnage shipped from the state, according to the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association (WMCA). The trucking industry in Wisconsin provided over 195,000 jobs, or one out of 14 of all jobs in the state. According to Forward Wisconsin, domestic energy and equipment manufacturing is an increasing market in a growing industry where demand is currently outstripping supply. Wisconsin has more than 75 companies that work in the wind turbine supply chain. The largest manufacturer of wind tower components is located in the city of Manitowoc. The production of wind turbine towers and similar large scale fabricated equipment has resulted in the need for an expanded freight network within the region.

Frieght 2Improving highway infrastructure to enhance the movement of freight is significantly important to Wisconsin’s economy. To this end, the WIS 147/I-43 interchange in Manitowoc County is a priority intersection serving northeastern manufacturers. As with many highly traveled intersections, standard semi-trailers (typically 67-feet in total length) are readily accommodated, but are deficient for moving specialized freight products that exceed 150-feet in length. To accommodate such specialized loads, roadway improvements are needed to enable safe and efficient freight movement while also enabling local businesses to grow and compete.

In the case of WIS 147, simple solutions such as improving turning radii and intersection widths, wider paved shoulders and removable signage can significantly improve the safety and mobility of specialized freight movement. Delays cost business time and money, so creating efficient roadways is a high priority for State Departments of Transportation. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has partnered with the WMCA and manufactures to understand their concerns, prioritize system improvements and program timely construction.

Swift and decisive action—as demonstrated by WisDOT—can be replicated in other states to benefit the economic goals of industries and regions across the nation.


Dustin Wolff, AICP

About the Author

When he works on development and preservation plans, Dustin Wolff, AICP, keeps in mind that communities need to evolve. “Helping people shape their futures is a rewarding and humbling responsibility,” he says. “The built environment has a profound effect on our lives. Decisions we make today will be felt for years to come.” He also enjoys visiting cities around the U.S. to experience what makes them special.

Read more posts by Dustin Wolff, AICP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *