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Rutherford Yard Panorama

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 entirety here or in the Resources section below.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


Freight Conditions


The planning process identified several major findings, including:

  • 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.

  • 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.​

  • 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.

  • 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 & 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.


  • 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.



Carlisle TruckStop

Carlisle area truck stop

I-81 congestion

I-81 South congestion, Dauphin County

I-81 Rte 114 overpass

I-81 & Rte. 114 overpass,

Cumberland County

St Johns Church Road railroad crossing

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

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