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Texas Completes Revised Freight Mobility Plan

 

November 16, 2017

 

In 2015 the Texas Department of Transportation adopted a Texas Freight Mobility Plan as a blueprint for an integrated multimodal freight system across the state. 

 

Later that year the U.S. Congress adopted the FAST Act setting new federal requirements that required the Freight Plan to be revised.  The FAST Act created a new National Highway Freight Program (NHFP) as a stand-alone freight program that diverts billions of dollars from the federal Highway Trust Fund to freight specific projects.

 

The Texas plan has now been revised and adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission.  Under the NHFP Texas will receive approximately 8% of total federal funds and 8% of NHFP funds or about $550 million over five years to invest in infrastructure that strengths the National Highway Freight Network.

 

The Texas plan is now available for download HERE in three PDF files.


In the planning process over the past two years a wide range of stakeholders helped identify needs and challenges by assessing existing conditions and projecting future needs based on forecasts of freight movement through the year 2045.

 

The Plan includes a call to action saying “Texas must be prepared to address the increase in goods that accompanies population, business and international and national trade growth. The 2017 Freight Plan identifies a balanced, comprehensive and multimodal freight investment plan and implementation strategy that the state will follow in order to meet current and future demands.  Implementation of the Freight Plan will only be successful with the participation and collaboration of all public- and private-sector users and owners of the transportation system, including freight industry stakeholders and federal, state, regional and local agencies…. Implementing the recommended policies, programs and projects outlined in the Freight Plan is critical to the continued economic competitiveness and prosperity of the state of Texas.”

 

By 2045, congestion and truck tonnage are projected to increase significantly on interstates throughout the state, particularly those located in what’s known as the Texas Triangle (the megaregion connected by I-10, I-35 and I-45). The border gateways of Laredo and El Paso will also be heavily impacted, along with major manufacturing and distribution hubs and agricultural and energy development areas such as Midland-Odessa, Amarillo and Lubbock. The highest increase in truck volumes are projected to be on I-35, I-10, I-45, and I-40.

 

A key outcome of the 2017 Freight Plan is the designation of the Texas Multimodal Freight Network. The network consists of key roadways, railroads, ports, waterways, airports and international border crossings.

 


 

The state’s growing truck tonnage will lead to increased daily truck trips and truck miles traveled; which in turn will further exacerbate congestion. In 2016, an estimated 745,800 daily truck trips occurred on Texas’ roadways. This figure is projected to increase by nearly 50% to over one million daily truck trips by 2045. This increase in truck trips will in turn mean more truck miles traveled on Texas roadways.

 

Freight volumes are projected to grow from 2.2 billion tons to 4.0 billion tons fueled by population growth and increased trade.  Large sections of the state’s interstate highway system and truck road system are predicted to have inadequate levels of service in the coming years with a noticeable negative impact on business and travelers.

 

Recommendations
There are 21 freight policy recommendations, 13 freight program recommendations and over 2,500 multimodal projects identified in the 2017 Freight Plan. Implementing these recommendations will address freight transportation needs identified in the Freight Plan.  Highway projects on the list have an estimated cost of $64 billion.  The Plan identifies a very large funding shortfall covering almost all of those projects.  There are 263 high priority highway freight projects identified with partial funding but of the $28.7 billion estimated cost of those projects only $4 billion in funding has been identified.

 

Strategic Projects
The Plan proposes two projects and two initiatives that are unplanned investments that will address future freight growth as well as current unmet needs. These strategic projects rise to a higher level due to the potential impact on statewide and national freight movements and economic competitiveness. The Texas Freight Advisory Committee played a key role in proposing these strategic projects based on current and future freight volumes, trends and opportunities.

 

The first project is to undertake conceptual design for an I-69 Bypass that would leave the I-69 main route in Wharton County south of Houston. The bypass would flow east and north to serve the seaports at Freeport, Galveston, Texas City and Houston, moving that freight outside the congested metro core area.

 

The second is a feasibility study of extending I-27 from Lubbock south through San Angelo and on to Laredo “to catalyze economic development through improved trade flows and connectivity.”

 

The two initiatives are development of a Texas Global Gateway Concept and a feasibility study for development of a multimodal freight corridor study that examines intelligent and alternative transportation modes and technologies for moving freight.