Freight transportation influences every aspect of our daily lives and keeps our businesses and industries competitive in the local and global economy. While Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth of Virginia have established an integrated multimodal freight system that facilitates the efficient, reliable, and safe movement of freight, our challenge will be to maintain and expand the system to meet the needs of tomorrow.
Over the last couple of decades, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) has engaged in numerous important freight planning activities. This includes the development of the Hampton Roads Regional Freight Study, which serves as a comprehensive resource document on the Hampton Roads multimodal transportation system. This 2017 update builds on previous efforts and is intended to inform freight policy, program, and investment decisions in the Hampton Roads region, which will impact the greater Commonwealth of Virginia. This report details the movement of goods across all freight facilities—highways, ports, railways, and airports. Special emphasis is placed on freight moving by trucks across highways as they serve as the predominant mover of freight.
This report contains an extensive analysis of freight movement to, from, and within Hampton Roads. Some of key findings in this update of the Hampton Roads Regional Freight Study are provided below:
- The total tonnage moved by truck in Hampton Roads is expected to double from 75 to 148 million tons between 2012 and 2040. For this reason, it is imperative for the region to improve the highways most used by the trucking industry in future years.
- The Port of Virginia's channels (50 feet) are among the deepest on the East Coast, and the only port authorized to be deepened to 55 feet. Virginia's deep channels have historically attracted first-in/last out services that require deeper sailing drafts when fully loaded.
- The newest generation of containerships are larger and more efficient than previous ships. In 2016, the ship lines formed into three major carrier alliances that control nearly 90% of the Asia-North America trade. The alliances have vessel-sharing agreements that allow slot-sharing on these large mega-ships which helps avoid financial losses accrued by operating less-than-full ships.
- Larger containerships will lead to new challenges for port facilities and the surrounding areas. Large influxes of containers will create more peaks and valleys that will need to be managed to ease road/rail congestion, workload operations, and driver needs.
Hampton Roads Total Freight Movement (within USA, Canada, and Mexico)
- In May 2017, the first 13,000 TEU vessel (COSCO Development) will call in Hampton Roads, representing the beginning of a new era for Virginia and the East Coast. With the completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2016 and other East Coast projects to raise navigational clearances in 2017, additional larger vessels will call Virginia’s ports. The net effect is fewer vessel calls, but with larger amounts of containers that are discharged and loaded with each ship call resulting in surges that must be rapidly transferred from the ship/marine terminal and transported over road/rail connections. In the past, ships that have called Hampton Roads have unloaded or loaded between 1,000 and 1,500 containers. With these larger vessels, approximately 4,000 containers will be transferred during their stay at the Port.
- The share of containerized cargo handled by the Port of Virginia has shifted towards rail. In 2006, 24% of all containers handled by the Port of Virginia were transported by rail. By 2016 this percentage had increased to 37% (over 551,000 rail containers). Port officials expect the amount of freight handled by rail to continue to increase. According to the Master Rail Plan, the Port of Virginia projects that it will transport nearly 1,000,000 containers by rail by the year 2040 (45% share), more than double what was handled by the Port in 2015.
- The region’s bridges and tunnels are a significant source of traffic congestion for the movement of freight and people. Limited capacity at the major water crossings contribute to poor regional connectivity causing severe congestion and poor travel reliability. The existing water crossing highway network is fragile, such that minor incidents can cause major traffic delays due to limited alternatives. Decreasing performance combined with increasing volume of people and goods indicates the need for increased capacity and improved reliability across the harbor.
The primary gateway for trucks entering or exiting Hampton Roads is I-64 (6,100 trucks each weekday in 2015). The next most traveled corridors for trucks entering and exiting the region are Route 58 (4,100 trucks) and Route 460 (2,100 trucks) (see Figure ES-13 on page 14).
- Combined, I-64, Route 58, and Route 460 accounted for 70% of all trucks passing through the region’s major gateways in 2015, with the share of trucks shifting to Routes 58 and 460.
Many of the corridors identified as freight bottlenecks in this study have projects that are currently underway or programmed in the next few years. In 2016, a new tube opened at the Midtown Tunnel and widening of a section of Route 17 in York County was completed. Construction has also started on phases of I-64 on the Peninsula and the I-64/I-264 Interchange. By 2025, widenings of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, I-64 on the Peninsula, I-64 in Chesapeake, and Holland Road in Suffolk should be completed.
Despite these projects that will address freight deficiencies, no funds have been identified for two highway corridors that serve as key Hampton Roads gateways: 1) I-64 for 29 miles between Hampton Roads and Richmond and 2) a limited-access route connecting Hampton Roads and I-95 along Route 58 or the potential I-87 Interstate corridor.
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The draft report will be open for public review and comment until June 16, 2017. All interested parties are encouraged to review the draft report and send comments to Mr. Sam Belfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 723 Woodlake Drive, Chesapeake, Virginia 23320.
Share of Trucks Passing through Regional Gateways each Weekday, 2006 and 2015