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The Impact of Metro Freight Trade on Congestion

Although the holidays cause millions more drivers to hit the road, delays in traffic may also stem from the congestion of goods movements by truck, both locally and across the country.
November 30, 2014, 9am PST | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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As Joseph Kane and Adie Tomer write for the Brookings Institution, "the 100 largest metro areas transport $16.2 trillion in products annually—or nearly 80 percent of all the country’s freight. Even more critically, though, over two-thirds of these goods are carried by trucks, which often traverse multiple states on their long-distance journeys. With anything from metals and machinery to electronics and textiles riding our interstates all day and night, regional markets depend on an efficient freight network to forge economic connections with one another, yet their local congestion can restrict this movement."

Looking at the major metro areas with some of the worst congestion, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and elsewhere, traffic chokeholds "not only slow down flows in their own regions, but also dampen economic exchanges across all corners of the country, including those across multiple types of modes such as rail. As a result, congestion in one market can hurt regions hundreds or even thousands of miles away." Kane and Tomer posit that instead of "spreading investments evenly across the country or limiting attention to individual projects, it’s time to tailor our freight improvements in light of location-specific concerns."

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Published on Monday, November 24, 2014 in The Brookings Institution
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