Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations

Findings on Connector Designation, Data to Support Planning, and Incorporation into State Freight Plans

Chapter 1. Introduction

Freight intermodal connectors are roads that provide local connections between major rail, port, airport, and pipeline terminals and the broader National Highway System (NHS) set of major roads. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) maintains a network of NHS intermodal connectors that are designated by State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and qualify for funding opportunities available for the NHS. Freight intermodal connectors account for less than one percent of total NHS mileage, but these roads are critical for the timely and reliable movement of freight. Therefore, it is important to understand the operations of intermodal connectors because they have a direct impact on goods movement efficiency, and the health of the economy. FHWA commissioned the Freight Intermodal Connector Study to provide a comprehensive understanding of the use, condition, and performance of the nation's freight intermodal connectors. Phase I of the study included:

  • Description of the existing designated NHS Intermodal Connector system.
  • Identification of existing and emerging freight and logistics trends, and how they are likely to impact freight intermodal connectors in the future.
  • Review of the current state of the practice in evaluating freight connector conditions and performance, including use of Federal, State, and local databases and modeling tools, as well as available performance measures.
  • Case studies of connectors at 18 freight intermodal terminals to understand how condition and performance data are being used to guide connector planning and investment decisions.
  • An examination of recent improvements to freight connector routes, including innovative funding approaches and key "lessons learned."

Phase II of the study focuses on options for improving the use, condition, and performance of freight intermodal connectors through the provision of better data for planning and programming. The activities conducted under this task include:

  • Description of issues related to the designation of freight intermodal connectors.
  • Examination of the data needs and options for a long-term data program, including the potential for the development of a stand-alone intermodal connector database.
  • Review of options for improving data quality and the amount of data available for planning on intermodal connectors.
  • Guidance on how to incorporate freight intermodal connectors into State Freight Plans.

This report summarizes the key findings and conclusions from this work. These are external findings and conclusions that do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. DOT, including the Federal Highway Administration.

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