Thursday, June 4, 2009

The MPO's Relationship with Freight Rail

As much as I love talking about passenger rail, I can also get into discussions on the other aspects of railroading and by that I mean, its freight hauling reason for being. Railroads from the very beginning have been in the business of moving goods from one place to another, with the conveyance of people as a side benefit to augment revenues. It is from this perspective that I have taken a look at the freight portion on the latest Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).

Freight is a method or service of transporting goods, according to the dictionary but it is also the name of the goods being hauled. In the realm of a complete transportation system, freight should be carried by all the modes of transportation in the same way as "complete streets" efforts now underway to make streets work for all modes of movement.

The freight portion of the earlier 2030 plan was found to be lacking and was recommended to be expanded in a stand alone plan for freight in the next plan. The 2035 MTP states this very clearly in the inventory section of Chapter 3, yet Chapter 6 then states:
The adopted highway plan is intended to serve truck carriers for the efficient movement and supply of goods. To relieve conflict between truck traffic and other modes, it is recommended to continue the existing methods which explained in MTP Freight Plan. ... These methods include: Sign restriction of truck movements; enforcement; established truck route systems (by city ordinances); on and off-street loading/unloading zones, facilities, restrictions and regulations.
Oh, and there is the mention of the Freight Plan being available on the MPO website See it here. I wouldn't look too hard because there is not much there. A brief description on how goods are shipped and why it matters to the public, an overview of the highways used for freight, a description of the trucking industry and a review of the accidents involving commercial vehicles in the Lexington area.

I hope that that is not the complete plan.

I was hoping to see an estimate of the trucks that use our Interstates on a daily basis(and an estimated tonnage), an accounting of the rail traffic through the two county area daily and what get picked up(delivered) daily from(to) whom. I wanted to see recommendations on how to shift some of our shipping or delivery points from truck to rail or vice versa.

The MTP document's stated recommendation is to "relieve conflict between truck traffic and other modes" and "to continue to existing methods" to do so. If the subject is freight, I cannot tell where the conflicts exist between trucks and other modes of freight movement, because there are no other freight modes mentioned.

It may be that all other modes of transportation discussed in the various plans use the publicly owned, built or controlled facilities, except rail. America's railroads are all run by private corporations on privately maintained rails, with the exception of AMTRAK and a small portion of the Northeast Corridor. If the reason that rail is not mentioned in the consideration of freight transportation is because they take no public money and submit to no local government control, then the plan should explain this.

There should be a clear delineation of what the MPO can and cannot influence or control.

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