July 28, 2016 11:55 AM, EDT

Iowa Finalizes First Freight Plan

Sean Hobson/Flickr

State transportation officials hope Iowa’s first freight plan will provide the guidelines necessary to manage a growing industry of airplanes, trains and semi-trailers.

Released July 26 by the Iowa Department of Transportation, the multimodal plan identifies needs and goals for the state’s air, truck, pipeline, rail and water freight transportation networks.

Sam Hiscocks, freight and rail planner with Iowa DOT’s office of systems planning, said the plan will be used as a guideline to improve efficiency, lessen transportation congestion and reduce the growing industry’s impact on the public and environment.

“All transportation modes are important to each other, they all work together,” Hiscocks said. “Basically, overall freight movement is projected to double by 2040. An increase like that is going to impact everybody.”

For example, large-truck traffic on Iowa’s primary roads has grown by 123% over the past three decades, with eastern Iowa’s portion of Interstate 80 seeing the highest truck activity, according to the report.

If trends continue, large-truck traffic will grow by more than 60% by 2040.

“That’s going to create challenges for the traveling public and the Iowa DOT,” Hiscocks said. “We’ll need to determine how we’re going to deal with that in the future. Not only handle it, but improve on the system.”

Several interested stakeholders, including Iowa’s Freight Advisory Council, provided input to help create the plan.

“There is a direct correlation between the success of economic activity in the state and the availability of reliable freight transportation that serves all facets of commerce,” FAC Chairman Ron Lang said in a July 26 news release. “The council worked closely with the Iowa DOT to review various modal strategies and improvements and recommend where to focus resources to achieve the most impact on economic growth.”

Earlier this month, Iowa received a major boost to address freight efficiencies with the announcement of a $25.7 million federal grant toward a Cedar Rapids intermodal transportation facility that will be a one-of-a-kind freight hub for the state.

The full-service intermodal facility is proposed for land southwest of the Highway 30 and Edgewood Road SW interchange. The $46.5 million project will incorporate three components — intermodal facilities for freight to truck — and vice versa — transfer; a cross-docking facility for truck-to-truck transfers; and a bulk freight storage and transfer operation.

Several steps remain until the plan becomes a reality, including project development, final design work and bid letting, but officials say construction could begin early next year.