MAP-21 impact on freight

Posted in: Bridges, Highways


IMG_5734Planes, trains and automobiles (trucks and ships too)

Whatever the mode of transportation, the importance of an efficient and safe network for moving freight is critical to the economic growth of the nation. It is what keeps our economy moving forward. For the first time, with the 2012 passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) legislation, the Feds have taken the lead in establishing a National Freight Policy. A strategic national approach to improve the movement of freight creates jobs while increasing our competitiveness in the global market.

The legislation calls for the development of a National Freight Network and a National Freight Strategic Plan aimed to improve the condition and performance of the national freight network. It will also provide increased funding shares for certain types of freight-related surface transportation improvements.

The National Freight Strategic Plan is currently being developed with input from state DOTs and other public and private stakeholders to:

  • Identify highway bottlenecks causing freight congestion
  • Identify national freight corridors and trade gateways
  • Assess barriers to improved freight transportation performance
  • Develop a process for addressing multi-state projects and strategies to improve intermodal connectivity
  • Identify best practices for improving performance along the national network and mitigating impacts of freight movement on communities

MAP-21 also requires the Federal Highway Administration to establish a National Freight Network to assist states in directing their resources towards improved performance and movement of freight on the highway component of the national freight transportation system. This is comprised of:

  • Primary Freight Network – 27,000 centerline miles of existing roadways designated by the Feds as most critical to the movement of freight
  • An option to add an additional 3,000 centerline miles to the PFN for roads deemed critical for future efficient freight movement
  • Portions of the Interstate System not designated part of the PFN
  • Critical rural freight corridors – designated by states

To encourage states to think ahead when it comes to freight transportation improvements, MAP-21 includes the incentive of an increased federal funding share of 95 percent for interstate freight projects and 90 percent share for non-interstate highway projects.

MAP-21 identifies freight planning as a key consideration at the state and local level as both public and private stakeholders continue to face increasing pressures from growing freight traffic on all freight modes. While not required, MAP-21 encourages states to form freight advisory committees to assist in the development of a comprehensive statewide freight plan. These committees include both public and private stakeholders. They are established to provide guidance to state and local planning officials to see that the future addresses the needs of the private sector while considering the public sector transportation infrastructure improvement process.

From a freight perspective, MAP-21 recognizes and addresses freight needs more comprehensively than previous legislation. However, due to the federal, state and local governments’ lack of control over other modes, the emphasis is focused on highway-related freight movement rather than a more strategic focus on all modes of transportation. The next federal transportation funding legislation will likely include more multi-modal freight provisions as the USDOT and state DOTs begin to understand their role in the freight movement. For more on the freight movement, Keep on Truckin’ has more on the subject.


Joel Lee, PE

About the Author

Joel Lee, P.E., is the Transportation Department Manager of Mead & Hunt’s Raleigh office. Joel has more than 30 years of experience in design and operations management as a transportation engineer. His background includes bridge design, roadway design and environmental planning projects for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Joel’s experience also involves the pursuit and management of design-build projects throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Read more posts by Joel Lee, PE

Leave a Reply

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