The Charlotte Bi-state Region is Developing a Regional Freight Mobility Plan

The efficient, reliable, and safe movement of goods and commodities in the Greater Charlotte region is required to sustain private sector commerce.  In order to support our existing businesses and attract new ones, the freight system must provide mobility and reliability to get finished goods to market and efficient supply chains.

Centralina Council of Governments, in partnership with the region’s transportation organizations and local governments, NC & SC Departments of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and private sector freight generators and providers, has begun an eighteen month project to develop the region’s first freight mobility plan. 

The freight mobility plan will focus on regional issues and make regional recommendations to position the region as an emerging trade hub in the Southeast.

National Freight Trends
The U.S.’s freight transportation system is a network of nearly seven million miles of highways, local roads, railways, waterways, and pipelines.  The components of this transportation system are linked to each other through intermodal facilities, airports and seaports.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the nation’s freight transportation system moves 55 million tons of goods worth more than $49 billion every day.

Regional Freight Trends
The Greater Charlotte region has a transportation backbone of six interstates, three rails lines, an international airport and air cargo center, and intermodal facilities. Over 62 percent of the U.S. industrial base and over 60 percent of the U.S. population is accessible within a 24 hour drive, giving the region a unique logistical and global competitive advantage. 

According to Site Selection magazine, Charlotte ranks 5th in the nation for new and expanded distribution operations, with 192 facilities serving as home base for distribution operations for companies Family Dollar, Black & Decker, GM, and TJ Maxx.  Manufacturing remains a dominant driver of the Regional economy despite losses in textile and furniture manufacturing, and the Region’s manufacturing and freight logistics interests play a strong role on the national and international stage. 

Every day, products designed and manufactured in the Region are shipped to markets nationwide and around the world.  In 2011, the Charlotte MSA exported more than $6.2 billion in goods around the world – a $2 billion increase from 2009.

Greater Charlotte Regional Freight Mobility Plan
In early summer the consulting firm, CDM Smith, was selected to develop the regional freight mobility plan in partnership with Centralina COG.  The freight planning process began with the assessment of existing conditions to identify system bottlenecks, commodity flows, land use and zoning classifications, policies and regulations, and road/rail network corridor demand. 

Following the existing conditions analysis, national best practices for technology, safety and security, and public private partnerships will be identified and considered for inclusion in the plan.  Most importantly, with this new information the project partners and freight committees will prioritize the region’s freight mobility project needs and develop performance measures and metrics for implementation.  

Stakeholder engagement of public and private sectors in a key component of the freight mobility plan.  Three committees will serve to guide and inform the plan:

  • Coordinating Committee: comprised of the region’s MPOs, RPO, NC DOT, SC DOT, and FHWA staff representatives
  • Steering Committee: comprised of key regional experts in transportation and land use planning, economic development, logistics, and local government elected officials.
  • Advisory Committee: comprised of freight systems providers and users.

Project Partners
The Freight Mobility Plan project partners include the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, NC DOT, SC DOT, Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO), Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln MPO, Rock-Hill, Fort-Mill Area Transportation Study, Rocky River RPO, area local municipal and county governments, economic development commissions, NC State Ports Authority, and private organizations such as the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway and NC Rail.  Funding support has come from FHWA, EDA, MPO/RPO, local governments, and the North Carolina State Ports Authority. 

In early fall the North Carolina Department of Transportation began the process for developing a State Freight Plan.  The more detailed recommendations from the Charlotte region’s Freight Mobility Plan will inform the state freight plan on local recommendations and issues.  The Greater Charlotte Regional Freight Mobility Plan will be completed in December 2016.

Project’s Expected Outcomes
The Regional Freight Mobility Plan will impact both transportation and economic development decisions and growth for the region.

In the short-term the project will:

  • Establish a solid collaborative decision-making process and network of partners for the complex set of public and private freight systems assets that support the Region’s Manufacturing and Logistics Super-Cluster.
  • Quantify real needs for future systems to more robustly support the Manufacturing and Logistics Super-Cluster, and
  • Define feasible solutions support by private and public stakeholders

In the long-term the project will:

  • Guide the Region’s investments in it freight infrastructure
  • Help in leveraging existing assets, and
  • Help improve productivity of the freight transportation system and the firms who rely on them.

The Regional Freight Mobility Plan is a product of the efforts and priorities of the Charlotte region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), the CONNECT Our Future project, and the region’s six Metropolitan/Rural Planning organization (MPO/RPO) transportation plans.  More information about these plans can be found at

Please visit the Greater Charlotte Regional Freight Mobility Plan project website to stay up to date.

For more information, contact Jessica Hill, Senior Planner at (704) 348-2731 or




Related Counties: AllCounties     
Related COG Areas: COGWide