Designation of the Primary Freight Network
Designation of the Primary Freight Network
Victor M. Mendez
Federal Highway Administration
November 19, 2013
[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 223 (Tuesday, November 19, 2013)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-27520]
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Highway Administration
[Docket No. FHWA-2013-0050]
Designation of the Primary Freight Network
AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice; Request for Comments.
SUMMARY: This notice publishes the draft initial designation of the
highway Primary Freight Network (PFN), which is established by the
Secretary of Transportation as required by 23 U.S.C. 167(d), and
provides information about designation of Critical Rural Freight
Corridors (CRFC), which are designated by the States, and establishment
of the National Freight Network (NFN), which combines the two, along
with the portions of the Interstate System not designated as part of
the highway PFN. This notice also solicits comments on the draft
initial designation of the highway PFN and other critical aspects of
the NFN. A notice published in the Federal Register on February 6, 2013
(78 FR 8686), introduced the process for designation of the highway
PFN, NFN, and CRFCs.
DATES: Comments must be received on or before December 19, 2013.
ADDRESSES: To ensure that you do not duplicate your docket submissions,
please submit them by only one of the following means:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting
Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., W12-140, Washington, DC
Hand Delivery: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140,
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through
Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone number is (202) 366-
Instructions: You must include the agency name and docket
number at the beginning of your comments. All comments received will be
posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any
personal information provided.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about this program,
contact Ed Strocko, FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations,
(202) 366-2997, or by email at Ed.Strocko@dot.gov. For legal questions,
please contact Michael Harkins, FHWA Office of the Chief Counsel, (202)
366-4928, or by email at Michael.Harkins@dot.gov. Business hours for
the FHWA are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday,
except Federal holidays.
You may retrieve a copy of the notice through the Federal
eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. The Web site is
available 24 hours each day, every day of the year. Electronic
submission and retrieval help and guidelines are available under the
help section of the Web site. An electronic copy of this document may
also be downloaded from Office of the Federal Register's home page at:
http://www.archives.gov/federal_register and the Government Printing
Office's Web page at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov.
Section 167(c) of title 23 United States Code (U.S.C.), created by
Section 1115 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act
(MAP-21), directs the Secretary to establish a NFN to assist States in
strategically directing resources toward improved system performance
for efficient movement of freight on the highway portion of the
Nation's freight transportation system, including the National Highway
System (NHS), freight intermodal connectors, and aerotropolis
transportation systems. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
approaches this with a full understanding that with regard to surface
freight transportation, significant tonnage moves over rail, water, and
pipeline networks and that this highway PFN designation does not fully
reflect those aspects of the U.S. freight system.
Under 23 U.S.C. 167(c), the NFN will consist of three components:
the highway PFN, the portions of the Interstate System not designated
as part of the highway PFN, and CRFCs, which are designated by the
Congress limited the highway PFN to not more than 27,000 centerline
miles of existing roadways that are most critical to the movement of
freight. Congress allowed an additional 3,000 centerline miles (that
may include existing or planned roads) critical to the future efficient
movement of goods on the highway PFN.
Congress instructed DOT to base the highway PFN on an inventory of
national freight volume conducted by the FHWA Administrator, in
consultation with stakeholders, including system users, transport
providers, and States. Congress defined eight factors to consider in
designating the highway PFN.
The eight factors are:
1. Origins and destinations of freight movement in the United
2. Total freight tonnage and value of freight moved by highways;
3. Percentage of annual average daily truck traffic in the annual
average daily traffic on principal arterials;
4. Annual average daily truck traffic on principal arterials;
5. Land and maritime ports of entry;
6. Access to energy exploration, development, installation, or
7. Population centers; and
8. Network connectivity.
Purpose of the Notice
The purpose of this notice is to publish the draft initial
designation of the highway PFN as required by 23 U.S.C. 167(d), provide
information regarding State designation of CRFCs and the establishment
of the complete NFN, and to solicit comments on aspects of the NFN. The
five areas for comment are: (1) Specific route deletions, additions, or
modifications to the draft initial designation of the highway PFN
contained in this notice; (2) the methodology for achieving a 27,000-
mile final designation; (3) how the NFN and its components could be
used by freight stakeholders in the future; (4) how the NFN may fit
into a multimodal National Freight System; and (5) suggestions for an
urban-area route designation process.
Limitations and Considerations for Primary Freight Network Development
The process of developing a highway PFN that reflects the criteria
for consideration identified by Congress and which results in a network
limited to only 27,000 centerline miles of roads is highly complex.
After careful consideration, DOT determined that the multitude of
factors combined with the mileage cap does not yield a network that is
representative of the most critical highway elements of national
freight system that exists in the United States. For example, the
effort to link qualifying segments to achieve a contiguous network, and
to ensure sufficient connections to Mexico and Canada, requires the
additional designation of thousands of miles. This reduces the number
of miles left for qualifying segments and necessitates raising the
qualifying threshold for level of volume, value, tonnage or other
factors. In addition, DOT discovered the following challenges in
designating the network required by MAP-21.
Application of the Primary Freight Network
The lack of a stated application for the highway PFN and NFN
introduces uncertainty into the designation process. Without a better
understanding of the goals for the highway PFN, it was challenging to
weight the factors for designation relative to one another and to gauge
whether the resulting network would meet future public planning and
investment needs. Each individual criterion yields different network
coverage when compared to the simulations for the other factors. For
example, a map that shows the top roads by percentage of truck traffic
and a map that shows the top roads by average annual daily truck
traffic yields very different results. The aggregation of all these
factors results in a map that is difficult to limit to 27,000 miles
without some significant prioritization of the many factors and their
cut-off points. With no clear optimal solution, additional input from
stakeholders is critical to prioritizing the miles to achieve a 27,000-
Centerline Versus Corridor Approach
Limiting the highway PFN to 27,000 centerline miles, as required by
23 U.S.C. 167(d), excludes many freight-significant Interstate and NHS
routes throughout the country. In 2008, DOT looked at the question of
critical U.S. freight routes as part of the Freight Story 2008 \1\
report and developed a multimodal, corridor-based map. This approach
allowed for the inclusion of more than one vital route in a congested
region. By contrast, the statutory language in MAP-21 clearly directs
DOT to use centerline roadway miles for the development of the NFN,
which does not necessarily allow for the designation of multiple routes
in a region that comprise an active and fluid highway freight system.
The DOT suggests that corridor-level analysis and investment has the
potential for widespread freight benefits, and can improve the
performance and efficiency of the highway PFN.
\1\ Publication: FHWA-HOP-08-051, available at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/freight_story/index.htm.
Limitations of National Data
The data utilized for the development of the draft initial highway
PFN comprises the best information available on freight behavior at a
national level. Nevertheless, national data is not sufficient to
understand fully the behavior of freight in smaller subsets of the
Nation, to include goods movement in urban areas. Urban areas of
200,000 and above include a freight-generating population and in most
cases, are the site of significant freight facilities where highway
freight intersects with other modes--at rail yards, ports, and major
airports. These ``first and last mile'' connections, which are also
represented in rural areas, do not always show up well in data sets.
Lack of Consideration for Critical Urban Freight Routes in the National
The DOT recognizes that many highway freight bottlenecks and
chokepoints are located in urban areas and at first and last mile
connectors, making urban areas critical to the efficiency of domestic
and international supply chains. Although Federal law provides a
mechanism to enable connectivity to critical freight ``last mile''
origins and destinations in rural areas through CRFC designation, which
are designated by the States, the NFN language in 23 U.S.C. 167(d)
lacks a parallel process for designating critical urban freight routes
to address the need for connectivity to urban areas. Urban area mileage
may only be included in the NFN if it qualifies as a highway PFN route
or if it is an Interstate System route. Given the lack of precision of
national data at the urban level, DOT believes there is merit in
establishing a process for local, regional, or State government
entities to designate critical urban freight routes that are important
for freight movement to, from, and through an urban area, but which
were not apparent through analysis of the national-level data.
Using national data, DOT included in the highway PFN designation
connectivity to urban areas over 200,000 in population with major
freight transfer facilities. However, DOT recognizes that cities,
Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and State Departments of
Transportation (State DOTs) are best positioned to understand the
complexities of freight movement in individual urban areas, including
current freight movement patterns, and plans or projections for shifts
in freight movement within the urban areas. The DOT strongly urges
these agencies to act in partnership to reach out to freight facility
owners and operators to: (1) Review and provide comments to DOT on the
inclusion of these and other facilities in the highway PFN; (2)
consider inclusion of these facilities in State and Metropolitan
Freight Plans; (3) provide comments and suggestions to DOT for a
metropolitan area process similar to the CRFC designation for critical
urban freight routes; (4) undertake a metropolitan area process similar
to the CRFC designation for critical urban freight routes; and (5)
jointly identify for DOT more precise data that could be used in the
identification of critical urban freight routes.
Process for Designating the Draft Initial Primary Freight Network
In undertaking the highway PFN analysis, DOT developed multiple
scenarios to identify a network that represents the most critical
highway portions of the United States freight system. The DOT welcomes
comment on the following methodology.
Highway Primary Freight Network Data Sources
The draft initial highway PFN was informed by measurable and
objective national data. In performing the analysis that led to
development of the draft initial highway PFN, FHWA considered the
following criteria and data sources, which are further described at the
following Web locations:
Factor Data source
Origins/destinations of freight FHWA Freight Analysis Framework
movements. (FAF) 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/.
Freight tonnage and value by FAF 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/
Percentage of Average Annual Daily FHWA Highway Performance Monitoring
Truck Traffic (AADTT) on System (HPMS) 2011 AADTT http://
principal arterials. www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/
AADTT on principal arterials...... HPMS 2011 AADTT http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/hpms.cfm.
Land & maritime ports of entry.... U.S. Department of Transportation
Maritime Administration (MARAD)
Containers by U.S. Customs Ports
DOT Bureau of Transportation
Statistics (BTS) Transborder data
U.S. Army Corps, Navigation Data
Center, special request, October
2012 via BTS.
Airports.......................... Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) CT 2011 Cargo Airports by
Landed Weight http://www.faa.gov/airports/planning_capacity/passenger_allcargo_stats/passenger/media/cy11_cargo.xlsx.
FAA Aeronautical Information
Services--Airport Database in the
National Transportation Atlas
Database (NTAD) 2013 www.bts.gov/programs/geographic_information_services/ services/.
Access to energy exploration, United States Energy Information
development, installation or Administration Data http://
production areas. www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_
Pennwell Mapsearch data via Pipeline
and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration (PHMSA) http://www.mapsearch.com.
Pennwell Mapsearch data via PHMSA
Pennwell Mapsearch data via PHMSA
Population centers................ 2010 Census http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/geo/shapefiles2012/main.
Network connectivity.............. FAF 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/.
FHWA National Highway Planning
Network (NHPN) Version 11.09 http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/processes/tools/nhpn/ tools/nhpn/.
National Highway System Freight FHWA National Highway System
Intermodal Connectors. Intermodal Connectors http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/national_highway_system/intermodal_connectors/ connectors/.
Railroads......................... Federal Railroad Administration
analysis of Rail Inc Centralized
Station Master data https://www.railinc.com/rportal/29.
Origin and destination pairs...... FAF 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/.
Draft Initial Primary Freight Network Methodology
The methodology employed by DOT in developing a draft initial
highway PFN included the following steps:
(1) The Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) and Highway Performance
Monitoring System (HPMS) data sets were engaged to yield the top 20,000
miles of road segments that qualify in two of the following four
factors: Value of freight moved by highway, tonnage of freight moved by
highway, annual average daily truck traffic (AADTT) on principal
arterials, and percentage of AADTT in the annual average daily traffic
on principal arterials.
(2) Segments identified in Step 1 and gaps between
segments were analyzed for network connectivity purposes. A network was
created by connecting segments if the gap between segments was equal to
or less than 440 miles (440 miles being the distance a truck could
travel in 1 day). A segment was eliminated if it was less than one-
tenth of the length of the nearest qualifying segment on the highway
(3) Land ports of entry with truck traffic higher than 75,000
trucks per year were identified. These land ports of entry were then
connected to the network created in Steps 1 and 2.
(4) The NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors within urban areas with a
population of 200,000 or more were identified.\2\ The NHS Freight
Intermodal Connectors included any connectors that had been categorized
as connecting to a freight rail terminal, port, or pipeline. In
addition, these NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors included routes to
the top 50 airports by landed weight of all cargo operations. These 50
airports represent 89 percent of the landed weight of all cargo
operations in the United States. The NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors
were connected back to the network created in Steps 1 and
2 along the route with the highest AADTT using HPMS.
\2\ Due to the timing of the highway PFN analysis DOT chose to
use the Census defined urban areas (UZAs) rather than the adjusted
UZAs that may be modified by states until June 2014.
(5) Road segments within urban areas with a population of 200,000
or more that have an AADTT of 8,500 trucks/day or more were
identified.\3\ Segments were connected to the network established in
Steps 1 and 2 if they were equal to or greater than
one-tenth of the length of the nearest qualifying segment on the
highway PFN. Those segments not meeting this rule were removed as they
were more likely to represent discrete local truck movement activity
unrelated to the national system.
(6) The network was analyzed to determine the relationship to
population centers, origins and destinations, maritime ports, airports,
and rail yards. Minor network connectivity adjustments were
incorporated into the network.
(7) The road systems in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, were
analyzed using HPMS data. These routes would not otherwise qualify
under a connected network model but play a critical role in the
movement of products from the agriculture and energy sectors, as well
as international import/export functions for their States and urban
areas. Roads connecting key ports to population centers were
incorporated into the draft initial highway PFN.
(8) The network was analyzed to determine the relationship to
energy exploration, development, installation, or production areas.
Since the data points for the energy sector are scattered around the
United States, often in rural areas, and because some of the related
freight may move by barge or other maritime vessel, rail, or even
pipeline, DOT did not presume a truck freight correlation, electing
instead to leave this to the expert consideration of States
through the designation of the CRFCs or comments to the draft initial
designation of the highway PFN.
This methodology resulted in a comprehensive map of 41,518
centerline miles, including 37,436 centerline miles of Interstate and
4,082 centerline miles of non-Interstate roads.\4\ Since the statute
limits the highway PFN to 27,000 centerline miles, the DOT then
identified those segments with the highest AADTT. These road segments
represented on the draft highway PFN map comprise 26,966 miles of
centerline roads that reflect consideration of the criteria offered by
Congress. This draft highway PFN results in an unconnected network with
major gaps in the system, including components of the global and
domestic supply chains. The DOT acknowledges that this 27,000-mile
highway PFN does not meet the statutory criterion for network
connectivity and would appreciate feedback on the importance of
designating a connected highway PFN compared to achieving the
connectivity with the addition of the Interstate routes in the
designation of the NFN. Furthermore, we offer the comprehensive 41,518-
mile map to elicit suggestions as to how to proceed to a final
designation of 27,000 miles.
\4\ Commenters should note the 2011 HPMS database and the
current FAF database differ in the delineation and exact geo-
location of the NHS system. This may result in 1%-2% plus/minus
variation on the total mileage because the mileage is based on the
geospatial network and actual mileage reported by States may vary
due to vertical and horizontal curves that are not always accurate
in GIS databases. The DOT will look to integrate the 2011 HPMS
database with the FAF database to reduce variation in future
The DOT notes that goods movement occurs in a very fluid
environment and during the drafting of MAP-21, Congress did not have
access to the latest data on freight movement. As a point of
comparison, the DOT took the major freight corridors map that was
originally developed for Freight Story 2008 and ran an analysis in the
spring of 2013 to see how that map would look using current data. This
effort was done internally as part of the work to develop the highway
PFN. The Freight Story 2008 map contained 27,500 miles of roads (26,000
miles based on truck data and parallel intermodal rail lines and 1,500
miles representing goods movement on parallel major bulk rail lines or
waterways). Using the same methodology with 2011 HPMS and rail data,
the mileage based solely on the truck and intermodal rail data grew to
over 31,000 miles of roads, not including consideration of growth in
other freight modes on parallel major bulk rail lines or waterways.
Additional Miles on the Primary Freight Network
The Secretary of Transportation, under Section 167 of title 23,
U.S.C., may increase the highway PFN by up to 3,000 centerline miles
above the 27,000-mile limit, to accommodate existing or planned roads
critical to future efficient movement of goods on the highway PFN.
In the February 6, 2013, notice describing the planned process for
the designation of the NFN, DOT outlined a process for determining
facilities to be included in these additional 3,000 miles. The DOT
indicated that in determining whether a route is critical to the future
efficient movement of goods on the highway PFN, the Secretary will
consider the factors identified for the designation of the highway PFN
as well as one or more additional factors.
In the draft initial designation of the highway PFN, DOT focused on
freight routes critical to the current movement of freight. The
Department is aware of emerging freight routes that will be critical to
the future efficient movement of goods and believes there is value in
expanding the highway PFN in the future to reflect these routes as the
Draft Initial Primary Freight Network Designation
The DOT has posted the details of the draft initial highway PFN,
including the 26,966-mile draft highway PFN map, the 41,518-mile
comprehensive map, State maps and lists of designated routes, tables of
mileage by State, and information regarding intermodal connectors and
border crossings at: http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/nfn/index.htm.
As previously noted, the statute places a cap on the designation of
the highway PFN at 27,000 centerline miles. The tables and maps on the
above Web site show a 41,518 mile connected network that DOT would
prefer to designate if it were not constrained to 27,000 miles by the
statute. The 27,000-mile subset shown in the map is only one option of
many that DOT could choose to designate as the highway PFN. The DOT
seeks comments on the routes identified in the draft initial highway
PFN of 26,966 miles, including the specific identification of roadways
that freight partners and stakeholders believe should be included or
removed. In submitting comments relating to the deletion, addition or
modification of roadways included in this draft highway PFN, commenters
should provide information that addresses how the roadway relates to
the factors identified above and in 23 U.S.C. 167(d).
Further, DOT welcomes comments on the proposed approach and
methodology to achieve a 27,000 mile network, considering such
questions as: Connectivity; the treatment of urban area mileage and the
concept of a critical urban freight corridor process; inclusion of
border crossings of a certain level of truck volume; corridor-level
designation; the adequacy of the network to identify bottlenecks and
other freight infrastructure or operational needs, and more.
Designation of Rural Freight Corridors
The designation of CRFCs by the States is described in 23 U.S.C.
167(e), and provides that a State may designate a road within the
borders of the State as a CRFC if the road is a rural principal
arterial roadway and has at least 25 percent of the AADTT of the road
measured in passenger vehicle equivalent units from trucks (FHWA
vehicle class 8 to 13); provides access to energy exploration,
development, installation or production areas; or connects the highway
PFN, a roadway described above, or the Interstate System to facilities
that handle more than 50,000 20-foot equivalent units per year, or
500,000 tons per year of bulk commodities. The designation of CRFCs
will be performed by State DOTs and provided to DOT after designation
of the highway PFN is complete. Further guidance and technical
assistance for identifying these corridors will be provided in the
coming months. The FHWA will make an initial request of the States to
identify CRFCs and will maintain route information for the rural
freight corridors thereafter. There is no equivalent provision in the
law for States to designate routes in urban areas.
National Freight Network Role
Freight in America travels over an extensive network of highways,
railroads, waterways, pipelines, and airways: 985,000 miles of Federal-
aid highways; 141,000 miles of railroads; 11,000 miles of inland
waterways; and 1.6 million miles of pipelines. There are over 19,000
airports in the United States, with approximately 540 serving
commercial operations, and over 5,000 coastal, Great Lakes, and inland
waterway facilities moving cargo.
Section 167(c) of title 23, U.S.C., directs the Secretary to
establish a NFN to assist States in strategically directing resources
toward improved system performance for efficient movement of freight on
the highway portion of the
Nation's freight transportation system. Nevertheless, while specific
commodities are likely to be moved on a particular mode or series of
modes, a complex multi-modal system is required to meet fully the
growing volume of bulk and high-velocity, high-value goods in the
The DOT seeks to develop a NFN to provide connectivity between and
throughout the three elements that comprise the NFN (highway PFN,
Remainder of the Interstate System, and CRFC). The DOT recognizes that
as a highway-only network, the NFN is an incomplete representation of
the system that is required to efficiently and effectively move freight
in the United States. Consistent with the national freight policy in
MAP-21, DOT's goal is to designate a highway PFN that will improve
system performance, maximize freight efficiency, and be effectively
integrated with the entire freight transportation system, including
non-highway modes of freight transport.
The DOT seeks comments on how the NFN fits into a larger multimodal
national freight system and how a multi-modal national freight system
may be defined.
Use of the National Freight Network in the Future
In creating the NFN, Congress stated that a NFN shall be
established to assist States in strategically directing resources
toward improved system performance for efficient movement of freight on
the highway portion of the Nation's freight transportation system.
Congress specified that the highway PFN shall be comprised of not more
than 27,000 miles of existing roadways that are most critical to the
movement of freight.
The DOT is seeking comments as to how the designation of the NFN
and highway PFN could be used by and benefit public and freight
stakeholders. We also welcome comments regarding potential undesirable
applications of the NFN and highway PFN. The DOT encourages widespread
input to this proposed draft to provide a thorough examination of the
diverse issues presented in this notice.
National Freight Network Designation
The following is the approximate schedule for designation of the
1. Initial designation of highway PFN--Fall 2013
2. Compilation of State-designated CRFC routes--Late 2013--Early
3. Release of the initial designation of the full NFN (including
highway PFN, rest of the Interstate System, CRFCs)--2014
Authority: 23 U.S.C. 167; Section 1115 of Pub. L. 112-141.
Issued on: November 8, 2013.
Victor M. Mendez,
[FR Doc. 2013-27520 Filed 11-18-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-22-P
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