Link Between Freight, Economy Development Focus of 2050 Plan

Recognizing the link between freight mobility and economic development, OKI prepared a Regional Freight Plan (Freight Plan) to understand industry trends, to forecast freight demand and to identify projects. The 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan incorporates the Freight Plan to address regional challenges, state freight planning strategies, and the overarching federal freight directives included in The FAST Act. These directives seek to ensure safe, efficient and reliable movement of freight.

Select an individual freight plan for more details.

Since adoption of the Freight Plan in August 2011, OKI has continued to collect, analyze and share the most current freight data. At, interactive maps and dashboards have been created to relay surface transportation data for rivers, roads, rails and runways.

Through constant data collection, as well as conversations with public and private stakeholders across the region, three major freight-related challenges have risen to the forefront since the last iteration of this metropolitan transportation plan. They are: lack of sufficient truck parking; Brent Spence Bridge; and underutilization of the Ohio River.

1. Lack of Sufficient Truck Parking

Contributing Factors

Growing concentration of logistics-related facilities

E-Commerce: With the staggering rise in e-commerce and its one-day, same-day delivery windows, the OKI region is experiencing an ever-growing increase in the number and concentration of logistics-related facilities. In 2018, due to its 126 current/pending logistics-related facilities Boone County was dubbed “The Silicon Valley of Logistics” by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Fulfillment centers have claimed sites near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

  • Since relocating to CVG in 2009, DHL’s North American Global Hub has invested more than $280 million in its facility. It employs more than 4,000 people during peak season (October to January).
  • Amazon Prime broke ground on its $1.5 billion Air Hub at CVG in May 2019. With DHL, Amazon and others using the assets of CVG, air cargo tonnage at CVG rose 56 percent between August 2016 and August 2019. In fact, CVG is ranked third in the nation, behind the Memphis’ FedEx Hub and Louisville’s UPS Hub, with 1,109,322,706 pounds of freight traveling through the facility annually. Source: CVG

Federal Rules: Two congressional rules passed to increase roadway safety, have made it more difficult for truck drivers to find truck parking.

  • Hours of Service: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of service (HOS) regulations were first adopted in 1937. They have been revised several times over the years as new research has impacted the understanding of fatigue. Federal HOS rules do not specifically limit the distance that can be driven in one day, but they do limit the number of hours that can be spent driving.
  • Electronic Logging Device (ELD): An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) synchronizes with a vehicle’s engine to automatically record driving time. This makes it easier and faster to accurately track, manage and share records of duty status (RODS) data for more precise HOS reporting. The federal ELD rule Source: Govinfo requires that CMV electronic data transfer must be made by wireless web services and email, or via Bluetooth and USB 2.0. Also, to aid roadside inspections and ensure safety, officials are always able to access this data. An ELD must provide either a display or printout.

The requirement of ELDs results in more stringent HOS enforcement. With demand for parking far surpassing available spaces, drivers are having to shorten their trips to leave sufficient time for searching and securing parking. Congestion, poor planning and lack of available truck parking result in a driver having to pull over and park on a roadway’s shoulder, interstate off-ramp or some other illegal location. HOS, truck parking and the ELD mandate ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, as truck drivers top concerns in a 2019 survey by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

>>Impacts and Steps Forward

Today, businesses occupying industrial and commercial parcels have created unplanned, excessive daily truck volumes. Industrial parks were not planned, designed or constructed to handle the level of demand witnessed today for truck parking, staging and queuing. In addition, long-haul truck drivers traveling the OKI region’s interstate network are forced to search for legal places to park, when truck stops and rest areas are full, to comply with HOS regulations.

The overwhelming demand for and inadequate supply of truck parking has led to truck conflicts with passenger vehicles, degradation to transportation infrastructure, as well as safety concerns for travelers. From 2010 to 2018, the Boone County Sheriff Department reports that CMV property damage collisions increased 84 percent. And CMV accidents resulting in injuries increased 92 percent.

In the first nine months of 2019 alone, Boone County had four CMV fatality accidents. Based on these statistics, the county is averaging two CMV-related accidents a day. In lieu of legal parking spaces, truck drivers are parking their vehicles along the public right-of-ways, such as roadway shoulders, interstate exit/entrance ramps, and on private property/commercial parking lots. This has been especially true in Boone County, home of CVG, and well documented in the 2018 Boone County Transportation Plan. Through OKI’s work with Boone County, and other regional and national partners, solutions are being explored and implemented that will benefit Northern Kentucky and the entire region.

2. Brent Spence Bridge

Major Transportation Corridor

Functionally obsolete, insufficient capacity, safety concerns

I-71/75 north-south corridor: The Brent Spence Bridge (BSB) carries I-71/75 over the Ohio River, connecting Ohio and Kentucky. The bridge, opened in 1963, was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles per day; it currently sees 150,000 vehicles, including more than 30,300 trucks. The National Bridge Inventory lists the BSB as “functionally obsolete” due to its insufficient capacity, sight distance, and safety concerns associated with its current configuration.

Bottlenecks: The BSB has been ranked one of the Nation’s top 10 truck bottlenecks for the past five years Source: ATRI. During the development of the OKI Freight Plan, interviews were conducted with different freight stakeholders. One regional carrier shared that their company had established cross-dock terminals in both Ohio and Kentucky to reduce the need for local pickup drivers to cross the BSB. Another regional trucking firm reported making shipments at night when traffic congestion is lighter, thus completely avoiding the bridge during the day.

The freight plan also summarized that “in many ways, the OKI region is similar to regions of similar size in the U.S., as there are congested highway segments; yet congestion is not viewed as having a major impact on the trucking industry. The exception is the Brent Spence Bridge which carries a heavy burden of the region’s truck traffic and serves as a major bottleneck for regional mobility.”

To put the BSB in perspective, I-75 is a major north-south transportation corridor through the Midwestern U.S. It links Ohio and Kentucky with Toledo, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, to the north, and Atlanta, Georgia, and Miami, Florida, to the south. I-75 is among the longest and busiest continuous interstate trade corridors in North America, creating a 2,200-mile major trade corridor from Canada to the Port of Miami. According to Federal Highway Administration estimates, I-75 is among the busiest trucking routes in North America, where trucks travel nearly six billion miles a year.

>>Impacts and Steps Forward

With the lack of agreement on a financing plan, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) funded the Brent Spence Strategic Corridor Study, which was completed in December 2019. The study developed and conducted a Level One examination of five bypass concepts to determine the degree to which any could potentially reduce congestion along I-71/I-75 in Northern Kentucky (commonly referred to as the Brent Spence Corridor), and improve cross-river mobility. Only two of the five concepts were advanced to a Level Two examination. This additional examination showed that both concepts failed to divert traffic from the I-71/I-75 corridor to any measurable degree. Since neither concept would lessen congestion issues in the BSB corridor, the study confirmed that the Brent Spence Bridge Replacement/ Rehabilitation Project (KYTC Item 6-17) is needed, along with reconstruction of the I-275 interchange, to provide travel congestion relief in the corridor through the year 2040, with acceptable levels of service.

In response to KYTC’s BSB Strategic Corridor Study, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) assembled and submitted the Eastern Bypass of Southwest Ohio and Greater Cincinnati report to the Ohio General Assembly in December 2019. In this document, ODOT concluded that after the significant costs and extreme amount of time needed for delivery of the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass (CEB) were evaluated, along with the small benefits identified in the KYTC study, it was ODOT’s opinion that no further expenditures of funding and staff time be put toward the CEB. Moreover, ODOT has expressed an interest to be a stakeholder in KYTC effort to further examine a Northern Kentucky Outer Loop because of the potential connection to Ohio being evaluated.

At this time, there have not been any new developments regarding the Brent Spence Bridge. However, the Brent Spence remains the OKI Region’s number one transportation improvement priority. In fact, the Brent Spence Bridge project is one of the nation’s most needed infrastructure projects. The project awaits a joint financing plan for the $2.6 billion project from the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State of Ohio. Such a plan is the conduit for meaningful financial federal participation in the project. Because the plan has not been developed, the start date for construction is uncertain. It should be noted that every year of delay in the start of construction, costs taxpayers $75 million to $85 million per year in inflation alone.


3. Underutilization of the Ohio River

The Region’s River Network

Slower, yet safer and more efficient

Capacity: Although typically slower, river transport is safer, cleaner and more fuel efficient than roadway or rail. One 15-barge tow can move the equivalent of 216 rail cars or 1,050 semi-trailer trucks. On average, one gallon of fuel allows one ton of cargo to be shipped 514 miles by barge. Source: Waterways Council Inc. 

Port: In early 2015, the Port of Cincinnati was re-designated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky (Port). The Port now covers 226 navigable miles of the Ohio and Licking rivers. The Ohio Department of Transportation’s 2018 Maritime System Study reported that the Ohio River transports more than three times the value of freight than does Lake Erie.

Although the Port is ranked first as the U.S.’s busiest inland port in terms of tonnage Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, it has been estimated that the river is using only 29 percent of its freight transport capacity. Source: Rob Carlisle, Partner with Carlisle & Bray Enterprises and 2017 CORBA Chairperson.

>>Impacts and Steps Forward

In partnership with public and private stakeholders, the items below include some of the assistance OKI has provided to promote the region’s river network for the movement of goods.

March 2017: Central Ohio Regional Information System (CORIS) identifies key features of the Port that may be important to potential site selectors, users, investors, elected officials and those in the maritime industry. CORIS shows users the terminals, various operators, boat docks and more along the Ohio River within the Port’s 15-county boundary.

CORIS also has filtering capabilities where the names of companies that fit specific search criteria can be identified by the end user. The system also functions as an interactive map that shows in real time where vessels (tugs and barges) are located in the harbor, the names of the vessels, and company ownership. This data is free and provided by OKI through an Automatic Identification System (AIS).

OKI houses the server for CORIS, but the Central Ohio River Business Association (CORBA) hosts the interactive map from their website CORIS has gone through two updates since its inception, which have increased both the number of marine-related businesses included and the amount of information reported for each site.

January 2019: CORBA’s The Port Snapshot was created to tout the Ohio River as an asset for moving goods. Regional economic development agencies led the partnership that made the document a reality.

January 2020: OKI serves as sponsoring applicant for the USDOT Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) American Marine Highway (AMH) designation project entitled M-70 Barge Service in the Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and Beyond. The AMH program’s purpose is to promote regional economic growth while shifting existing and anticipated freight traffic from the region’s congested interstate highways to the Ohio River. Project designation makes any public or private entity within the specified M-70/Ohio River ports eligible to apply to Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) posted by MARAD’s AMH program. OKI endorsed two applications requesting a total of over $3.5 million in MARAD’s 2020 AMH NOFO and is awaiting award notification.

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