Freight Movement

Middle Tennessee benefits tremendously from freight transportation related assets and infrastructure. Among these are the region's roadways, waterways, railroads, and airports. Nashville is at the nexus of three major Interstate highways, Interstate 24, 40, and 65, and three major limited access bypasses, Interstate 440, Briley Parkway, and State Route 840. The Cumberland River provides barge access to the Mississippi River system and the Gulf of Mexico. One Class I (CSX) and two Class II rail carriers operate within the region along with a major rail classification yard, an intermodal ramp, an automotive ramp, and bulk and break bulk terminals. Two of the region's airports have sufficient runways to accommodate large aircraft such as the Boeing 747, Nashville International Airport and the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport. In addition there are seven general aviation airports in the region. However, the central location and proximity to several major distribution cities is what makes Nashville a unique city for freight transportation.

Local Benefits from Freight Infrastructure

The unique location of Middle Tennessee allows for the region to be competitive in the global market and a desirable place for manufacturing and distribution. The Nashville region is strategically located within 650 miles of half of the United States population and is home to approximately 1.5 million people. Some of the key characteristics of the Nashville region include the following:

These are very important characteristics of the Nashville region and indicate why the Nashville region is one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. There are many important factors driving the region's success, but perhaps none as important as the transportation network. More specifically, the means for which freight and goods are transported to and from their ultimate destinations.

Local Challenges Resulting from Freight Movement

Over 298 million tons of freight originate, terminate, flow through, or move within the Nashville region on an annual basis and that number is expected to increase up to as much as 467 million tons by 2035. 82% of that freight is carried by truck and by 2035 that percentage is expected to increase to 83%, thus having a major impact on our regions roadway network. Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that 77% of all freight carrying trucks never stop inside the Nashville region, with that number expected to increase to 78% in 2035. Therefore, a much larger strain is going to be placed on the roadway network in the Nashville region, particularly on interstates/freeways and major arterials.

In addition to exaggerated congestion and bottlenecks, the increase in truck traffic will lead to reduced travel times and system reliability. Increased noise, air and water pollution along with more severe traffic accidents are also to be expected with the increase in trucks on the road.

Importance of Freight Planning

It is important that the MPO balances the positive and negative impacts that freight movement has on a region. With the right balance, Middle Tennessee will remain a thriving area for business while keeping the harmful side effects at a minimum.

The Nashville Area MPO, through federal transportation legislation, is charged with providing the tools and plans necessary to help ensure that a multimodal transportation infrastructure system is maintained and developed in a manner that supports all modes of travel. This includes the safe and efficient movement of freight and goods. The MPO has developed and continues to develop several tools and plans to assist in maintaining and enhancing the regional transportation infrastructure and the Regional Freight & Goods Movement Studies are just one of those tools. These documents identify many potential infrastructure and policy related projects to maintain and improve the freight transportation network over the next several years.

Many of these identified freight infrastructure projects are included in the MPO's Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). This is significant because the RTP establishes the priority projects for the region in terms of funding and implementation. Many efforts were made to continue to establish the region's freight and goods movement transportation network as a priority in the RTP. In fact, proposed transportation infrastructure projects were subject to specific freight related scoring criteria that were largely derived from these freight studies. This is a critical step in institutionalizing freight into the RTP development process because this helps to ensure that freight is a significant consideration in regional project prioritization.

Current Efforts

Freight Study: document cover

Regional Freight & Goods Movement Study, Phase III (2014)

Building upon the accomplishments of the first two phases of the Regional Freight & Goods Movement Study, the Nashville Area MPO is currently working with consulting experts and local freight advisors to:





Corridor or Regional:

National Professional Organizations:

Trucking Associations:

Research and Academia:

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