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Ohio State Freight Plan blazes new trails

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CPCS transportation advisors have delivered Ohio’s trailblazing freight plan titled Transport Ohio, which will guide policy and investment decisions until 2027.

Key points: 

  • CPCS created a unique digital dashboard for Ohio’s State Freight Plan
  • Changes that CPCS recommended in the plan are being implemented
  • The project’s Freight Advisory Committee comprised of public and private stakeholders will continue meeting and helping guide going forward

Data portal tells deeper freight story  

The plan’s most unique feature is the creation of a multifaceted online dashboard as an ongoing resource for stakeholders in Ohio’s freight system.

“The dashboard our data scientists created allows the State local governments, economic developers, freight stakeholders, and others to continue learning about the plan through this portal,” says Erika Witzke, a Professional Engineer and Associate Vice President, US at CPCS, a global management consultancy specializing in freight planning, policy and transportation infrastructure.

“A static paper report just doesn’t tell the whole story,” she says. “So this dashboard is intended to tell more of the story, allowing local authorities to dig a bit deeper into their own individual systems.”

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Erika says, other states are also developing data dashboards.

The Ohio State Freight Plan dashboard includes comprehensive parking information for truckers as part of a standalone truck parking study released in 2022. CPCS identified, inventoried and mapped public and private parking facilities throughout Ohio and for about 20 miles beyond the state line into neighbouring states.

Drivers can easily check the information for what truck parking is ahead and what is available in terms of restrooms, showers and other services.

Ohio moving with freight plan

That CPCS truck parking study mentioned earlier is already having an impact.

A program was set up to convert 13 weigh stations to commercial vehicle parking facilities. Ten have been converted so far, offering about 18 spaces each, and three more are planned for 2023.

The transportation network in Ohio, which ranks seventh among US states for both population and gross domestic product, moves goods and products to markets within the US and internationally. The network includes 1,330 miles of interstate, 5,000-plus miles of active freight rail lines, 736 maritime system miles, eight airports with regular cargo service and more than 110,000 miles of pipeline. The system transported over one billion tons of goods worth over $1.2 trillion in 2018. 

Called Transport Ohio, the state freight plan was an essential requirement of the federal act Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST), as well as requirements signed into law in November 2021 as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Each state that wants to spend their freight funding must develop a freight plan that satisfies the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) reviews by government experts.

Ohio State Freight Plan report cover that shows a bridge and cars.

CPCS sets up Ohio for success

Meeting these requirements successfully earned Ohio $290 million in federal funding over five years as part of the National Highway Freight Program.

The plan describes Ohio’s multimodal freight system, how industries use the system, system needs, issues, opportunities and key system priorities.

“We also looked at how the multimodal freight system is connected and then its impact on the environment,” says Erika, who worked on the plan with many transportation specialists of the CPCS US group and their three project partners: the American Transportation Research Institute, WSP, and Murphy Epson.

“After reviewing the system, we made a whole host of strategic and policy recommendations.”

The recommendations include:

  • strategies for coordination
  • partnerships
  • innovation and technology implementation
  • system investments to maintain Ohio’s industry leadership

“Ohio has started investing in those projects that we’ve recommended to satisfy the needs that were identified,” Erika says.

Freight advisory committee a key ongoing resource

The plan goes beyond state roadways, railroads, pipelines, air cargo hubs and the maritime network. It extends to the people who use the multimodal freight system. Those people include truck drivers, third party logistics providers and the many entities that are planning businesses in silos without an overview of the state’s freight system.

“So how can you really establish a freight system that works, that’s efficient, that’s easy to use, and that everyone understands the rules and regulations around without all of these stakeholders coming together?” Erika says.

The federal government recommends states form a freight advisory committee (FAC) when developing a freight plan. Ohio created a FAC that brought together stakeholders representing the modal, geographic, and industry components of Ohio’s freight system, as well as a small team of CPCS transportation advisors led by the firm’s project director and managing partner Marc-André Roy.

Erika says that because a FAC is only recommended and not required, some states don’t have them, and others disband them once their freight plan is completed. Ohio’s freight committee met often during the plan’s development and will continue meeting regularly now that the Transport Ohio plan has been delivered.

“It’s not something that’s going to be a one and done just for satisfying requirements that we need to involve stakeholders in developing this plan,” Erika says. “But the state is going to make sure that this group continues to give them guidance as they implement transportation projects across the state into the future. So it’s very unique and it’s a big investment.”

Related story: Ohio Answers Some Parking Needs by Converting Weigh Stations | Transport Topics (ttnews.com)

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