A Note on Context

Freight planning and policy have risen to the forefront of interest among transportation professionals, economic developers, and even casual observers. As stated, this seemingly new awareness has been driven by the undeniable freight presence in our transportation systems, the economic benefits that can be derived from freight transportation development, and the developing policy context that is shaping how states work with freight.

Within this policy development arena, our understanding, and our response to freight transportation development are shaped by a range of global changes. The RFS addresses many of these evolving issues as a way to introduce the interdependence among economic, transportation and logistics factors. Understanding the development context also leads practitioners to think about innovation and new ways of doing business to address or mitigate the anticipated changes. Further, a regional approach brings the necessity of working across borders—local, state and even national borders—to address the efficient movement of freight and the resulting business and employment support that freight development brings.

The big issues freight practitioners are working with include common themes such as an aging infrastructure system with inadequate funding and no easy funding solutions. The shared trends across transportation also include a growing awareness of environmental implications of transportation including impacts to air and water quality, impacts to communities and human health, and impacts to the natural environment. Planners and practitioners must also consider global development trends such as the Panama Canal rebuild, the U.S. port response, and the condition of our border and export connections. Recent developments also include the U.S. energy renaissance and its far-reaching network of effects, as well as global economic and fiscal conditions in major trade partners such as China and the European Union. Closer to home are a whole range of issues such as local politics, local development issues, economic initiatives, and even geography and natural resources.

As you use this document to expand your planning beyond the border, to increase the play of your state data or create champions for state and regional freight development, it is important to consider:

  • MAFC state technical representatives are leaders in freight policy and programs. As such the region should capitalize on the uptick in interest in freight to provide a focus on MAASTO state resources and logistics patterns.
  • A regional coalition with sincere collaboration and interaction not only supports regional freight projects, but also supports a community of practice and sharing of techniques and practices that increase success for everyone. Multi-state projects and initiatives and the resulting freight efficiencies and economic benefits will not be possible without this type of collaboration.
  • The economic possibilities and the role of the MAASTO states in national freight movement are critical to the nation as well as the 10 MAASTO states.

Taken together, the rapidly changing policy, economic and logistics landscape, and the increasing freight presence in our transportation systems are a call to action for the MAASTO states and the MAFC coalition. A call to be a leader in the development of a national freight system and in regional partnerships to advance freight transportation and the related economic development. The MAFC RFS represents the first steps towards the development of a regional approach to freight development and provides a framework to understand and strengthen the connections between our transportation policy and institutions, freight transportation systems, and the economy.