Rutherford Intermodal Yard, Swatara Township

Rutherford Intermodal Yard, Swatara Township

Following is the Executive Summary from Harrisburg Area Transportation Study's Regional Freight Plan. The plan can be viewed in its entirely here or in the Resources section below.

Who initiated the freight plan update?

  • The planning process was facilitated by the Tri‐County Regional Planning Commission which provides the administrative staffing support for the Harrisburg Area Transportation Study (HATS) Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The Commission contracted with Michael Baker International to help facilitate the planning effort.

Why was this study initiated?

  • HATS is responsible for more than just planning and programming. Its responsibility extends to all areas of transportation planning, including freight movement. Freight is the physical manifestation of our economy, and so planning for its success is a vital part of the MPO’s work.

Who participated in the planning process?

  • The plan was shaped through the input of a 15‐member steering committee, which met four times over the course of the planning process. HATS also conducted a series of freight focus group meetings around the region, with events in Bloomfield Borough, South Middleton Township, and Swatara Township. The planning team conducted other stakeholder interviews with HIA, Norfolk Southern, and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association.

What are the region’s existing freight conditions?

Topic Status
Total Population ● The region continues to grow and now exceeds 565,000 in total population.
● Cumberland County was the fastest‐growing county in the state from 2010‐15.
● The Harrisburg‐Carlisle MSA is the fourth‐largest in Pennsylvania.
Employment by Industry ● The region has lost 3,700 manufacturing jobs since 2005.
● The region is a leader statewide in the share of its employment in the Warehousing & Transportation industry.
Roadway Network ● The region boasts a roadway network of nearly 4,900 linear miles supporting 16.5 million miles of travel, daily.
Truck Travel Demand ● The HATS region accommodates 6 percent of all travel demand, statewide, and 8 percent of all truck traffic.
Critical Urban & Rural Freight Corridors ● HATS has identified 40 miles of Critical Urban Freight Corridors and 8 miles of Critical Rural Freight Corridors for potential certification by FHWA.
● Successful certification of these candidates would expand the HATS region’s share of roadway eligible for FHWA’s National Highway Freight Program funds.
Pavement Quality ● Percent of the region’s pavement on Interstates and the NHS rated as “Good” or Excellent” has declined overall since 2010.
Truck Crashes ● The region’s total number of truck crashes has been increasing steadily over the past three years, to a 2015 total of 551, a decade-high.
Bridge Conditions ● The region’s total number of structurally deficient bridges has been declining, although structurally deficient deck area has been increasing.
● Nearly 12 percent of the region’s state-owned bridges (>8’) are structurally deficient, compared to 22 percent of locally-owned bridges (>20’).
● The average state-owned bridge in the HATS region is 56 years old.
● One-in-five of the region’s local bridges were built before 1940.
Priority Networks ● The region’s interstates consist of only 8 percent of the HATS region’s roadway network, but carry over a third of all travel.
Commodity Flow ● The region receives approximately 17 million tons of freight annually, and generates over 22 million tons.
● The HATS region counts Lancaster County as its top export destination, while the greater Chicago and Philadelphia metropolitan regions are among the top trading partners.
● The region’s top commodity export is broken stone and riprap.
● Top import commodity is petroleum refining products.

What are the plan’s major findings?

The planning process identified several major findings, including:

Carlisle area truck stop

Carlisle area truck stop

  • Reliance on Transportation & Warehousing — The region is a leader statewide in the share of its employment in the Transportation & Warehousing Industry. Since 2010, employment in the Transportation & Warehousing industry has increased by nearly 20 percent. Sectors such as this, along with the construction, wholesale and retail industry sectors are by nature very reliant on freight movement for their success.
  • Strategic Highway Routes — The region’s interstates comprise only 4 percent of the entire regional roadway network, yet they facilitate over a third of all travel. This illustrates the strategic importance of (and the need to continue to invest in) these higher-order roadways.
I-81 South congestion, Dauphin County

I-81 South congestion, Dauphin County

  • Increasing Number of Truck Crashes — Despite new Hours-of-Service regulations, the number of truck crashes has been increasing on HATS roadways over the last three years. In 2015, the region experienced a decade high of 551 truck crashes. Cumberland County historically has led the region in the total number of truck crashes. Over the last decade, it has averaged 212 truck crashes per year.
I-81 & Rte. 114 overpass, Cumberland County

I-81 & Rte. 114 overpass, Cumberland County

  • Mixed Bridge Conditions — PennDOT and HATS have been making progress in reducing the region’s number of structurally deficient bridges. The region’s total number of has declined nearly 10 percent from 142 in 2013 to 126 in 2017. However, when based on bridge performance by deck area, the square footage of the region’s structurally deficient bridges has increased during the same period.
  • Worsening Pavement Conditions — The percent of the region’s Interstate and NHS routes rated as “Good” and “Excellent” have declined since a 2010 baseline was established. The percent of the region’s interstates and non-NHS <2,000 rated as “Poor” have increased over previous years.
St. John's Church Road railroad crossing, Cumberland County

St. John's Church Road railroad crossing, Cumberland County

  • Rail Assets — Shippers and receivers in the HATS region are connected to the national rail network through a mix of short lines and a Class I carrier. Harrisburg is one of three primary intermodal hubs in the Norfolk Southern system east of the Mississippi, incorporating the Harrisburg and Rutherford Intermodal Yards. The region is also situated at the northern extent of the railroad’s Crescent Corridor initiative, which is its highest expansion priority. The Crescent Corridor traverses the HATS region and facilitates the movement of domestic intermodal traffic between the Northeast and the Southeast.
  • Air Assets — Harrisburg International Airport is also a significant cargo airport. In terms of cargo weight landed, HIA ranked third in the state and sixty-eighth in the country. Since 1990, air cargo tonnage has increased by 15,000 tons, and is projected to increase by an additional 17,000 tons by 2032. HIA will be expanding its air cargo apron to meet the growing needs of the airport.
  • Commodity Imports and Exports — The region is a net exporter of freight, with approximately 22 million tons of freight each year, at a total value of just over $27 billion. The growth in freight being shipped from the region is expected to grow to over 38 million tons by 2040. The top destination for the region’s freight includes Lancaster County, Delaware Valley, York County, and the Illinois portion of Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City. Top commodities being shipped out of the region include broken stone or riprap, warehouse & distribution center, rail intermodal drayage from ramp, and semi-trailers returned empty.

What happens next?

  • The HATS Coordinating Committee accepted the freight plan during its September 22, 2017 meeting. The plan and its findings will be used by the MPO as part of its future planning and programming activities, including the update of the 2019 program.