[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 223 (Tuesday, November 19, 2013)]
[Pages 69520-69524]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-27520]



Federal Highway Administration

[Docket No. FHWA-2013-0050]

Designation of the Primary Freight Network

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice; Request for Comments.


SUMMARY: This notice publishes the draft initial designation of the 
highway Primary Freight Network (PFN), which is established by the 
Secretary of Transportation as required by 23 U.S.C. 167(d), and 
provides information about designation of Critical Rural Freight 
Corridors (CRFC), which are designated by the States, and establishment 
of the National Freight Network (NFN), which combines the two, along 
with the portions of the Interstate System not designated as part of 
the highway PFN. This notice also solicits comments on the draft 
initial designation of the highway PFN and other critical aspects of 
the NFN. A notice published in the Federal Register on February 6, 2013 
(78 FR 8686), introduced the process for designation of the highway 
PFN, NFN, and CRFCs.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before December 19, 2013.

ADDRESSES: To ensure that you do not duplicate your docket submissions, 
please submit them by only one of the following means:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting 
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., W12-140, Washington, DC 
     Hand Delivery: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone number is (202) 366-
     Instructions: You must include the agency name and docket 
number at the beginning of your comments. All comments received will be 
posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any 
personal information provided.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about this program, 
contact Ed Strocko, FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations, 
(202) 366-2997, or by email at [email protected]. For legal questions, 
please contact Michael Harkins, FHWA Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 
366-4928, or by email at [email protected]. Business hours for 
the FHWA are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.


Electronic Access

    You may retrieve a copy of the notice through the Federal 
eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. The Web site is 
available 24 hours each day, every day of the year. Electronic 
submission and retrieval help and guidelines are available under the 
help section of the Web site. An electronic copy of this document may 
also be downloaded from Office of the Federal Register's home page at: 
http://www.archives.gov/federal_register and the Government Printing 
Office's Web page at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov.


    Section 167(c) of title 23 United States Code (U.S.C.), created by 
Section 1115 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act 
(MAP-21), directs the Secretary to establish a NFN to assist States in 
strategically directing resources toward improved system performance 
for efficient movement of freight on the highway portion of the 
Nation's freight transportation system, including the National Highway 
System (NHS), freight intermodal connectors, and aerotropolis 
transportation systems. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) 
approaches this with a full understanding that with regard to surface 
freight transportation, significant tonnage moves over rail, water, and 
pipeline networks and that this highway PFN designation does not fully 
reflect those aspects of the U.S. freight system.
    Under 23 U.S.C. 167(c), the NFN will consist of three components: 
the highway PFN, the portions of the Interstate System not designated 
as part of the highway PFN, and CRFCs, which are designated by the 
    Congress limited the highway PFN to not more than 27,000 centerline 
miles of existing roadways that are most critical to the movement of 
freight. Congress allowed an additional 3,000 centerline miles (that 
may include existing or planned roads) critical to the future efficient 
movement of goods on the highway PFN.
    Congress instructed DOT to base the highway PFN on an inventory of 
national freight volume conducted by the FHWA Administrator, in 
consultation with stakeholders, including system users, transport 
providers, and States. Congress defined eight factors to consider in 
designating the highway PFN.
    The eight factors are:
    1. Origins and destinations of freight movement in the United 
    2. Total freight tonnage and value of freight moved by highways;
    3. Percentage of annual average daily truck traffic in the annual 
average daily traffic on principal arterials;
    4. Annual average daily truck traffic on principal arterials;
    5. Land and maritime ports of entry;
    6. Access to energy exploration, development, installation, or 
production areas;
    7. Population centers; and
    8. Network connectivity.

Purpose of the Notice

    The purpose of this notice is to publish the draft initial 
designation of the highway PFN as required by 23 U.S.C. 167(d), provide 
information regarding State designation of CRFCs and the establishment 
of the complete NFN, and to solicit comments on aspects of the NFN. The 
five areas for comment are: (1) Specific route deletions, additions, or 
modifications to the draft initial designation of the highway PFN 
contained in this notice; (2) the methodology for achieving a 27,000-
mile final designation; (3) how the NFN and its components could be 
used by freight stakeholders in the future; (4) how the NFN may fit 
into a multimodal National Freight System; and (5) suggestions for an 
urban-area route designation process.

[[Page 69521]]

Limitations and Considerations for Primary Freight Network Development

    The process of developing a highway PFN that reflects the criteria 
for consideration identified by Congress and which results in a network 
limited to only 27,000 centerline miles of roads is highly complex. 
After careful consideration, DOT determined that the multitude of 
factors combined with the mileage cap does not yield a network that is 
representative of the most critical highway elements of national 
freight system that exists in the United States. For example, the 
effort to link qualifying segments to achieve a contiguous network, and 
to ensure sufficient connections to Mexico and Canada, requires the 
additional designation of thousands of miles. This reduces the number 
of miles left for qualifying segments and necessitates raising the 
qualifying threshold for level of volume, value, tonnage or other 
factors. In addition, DOT discovered the following challenges in 
designating the network required by MAP-21.

Application of the Primary Freight Network

    The lack of a stated application for the highway PFN and NFN 
introduces uncertainty into the designation process. Without a better 
understanding of the goals for the highway PFN, it was challenging to 
weight the factors for designation relative to one another and to gauge 
whether the resulting network would meet future public planning and 
investment needs. Each individual criterion yields different network 
coverage when compared to the simulations for the other factors. For 
example, a map that shows the top roads by percentage of truck traffic 
and a map that shows the top roads by average annual daily truck 
traffic yields very different results. The aggregation of all these 
factors results in a map that is difficult to limit to 27,000 miles 
without some significant prioritization of the many factors and their 
cut-off points. With no clear optimal solution, additional input from 
stakeholders is critical to prioritizing the miles to achieve a 27,000-
mile designation.

Centerline Versus Corridor Approach

    Limiting the highway PFN to 27,000 centerline miles, as required by 
23 U.S.C. 167(d), excludes many freight-significant Interstate and NHS 
routes throughout the country. In 2008, DOT looked at the question of 
critical U.S. freight routes as part of the Freight Story 2008 \1\ 
report and developed a multimodal, corridor-based map. This approach 
allowed for the inclusion of more than one vital route in a congested 
region. By contrast, the statutory language in MAP-21 clearly directs 
DOT to use centerline roadway miles for the development of the NFN, 
which does not necessarily allow for the designation of multiple routes 
in a region that comprise an active and fluid highway freight system. 
The DOT suggests that corridor-level analysis and investment has the 
potential for widespread freight benefits, and can improve the 
performance and efficiency of the highway PFN.

    \1\ Publication: FHWA-HOP-08-051, available at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/freight_story/index.htm.

Limitations of National Data

    The data utilized for the development of the draft initial highway 
PFN comprises the best information available on freight behavior at a 
national level. Nevertheless, national data is not sufficient to 
understand fully the behavior of freight in smaller subsets of the 
Nation, to include goods movement in urban areas. Urban areas of 
200,000 and above include a freight-generating population and in most 
cases, are the site of significant freight facilities where highway 
freight intersects with other modes--at rail yards, ports, and major 
airports. These ``first and last mile'' connections, which are also 
represented in rural areas, do not always show up well in data sets.

Lack of Consideration for Critical Urban Freight Routes in the National 
Freight Network

    The DOT recognizes that many highway freight bottlenecks and 
chokepoints are located in urban areas and at first and last mile 
connectors, making urban areas critical to the efficiency of domestic 
and international supply chains. Although Federal law provides a 
mechanism to enable connectivity to critical freight ``last mile'' 
origins and destinations in rural areas through CRFC designation, which 
are designated by the States, the NFN language in 23 U.S.C. 167(d) 
lacks a parallel process for designating critical urban freight routes 
to address the need for connectivity to urban areas. Urban area mileage 
may only be included in the NFN if it qualifies as a highway PFN route 
or if it is an Interstate System route. Given the lack of precision of 
national data at the urban level, DOT believes there is merit in 
establishing a process for local, regional, or State government 
entities to designate critical urban freight routes that are important 
for freight movement to, from, and through an urban area, but which 
were not apparent through analysis of the national-level data.
    Using national data, DOT included in the highway PFN designation 
connectivity to urban areas over 200,000 in population with major 
freight transfer facilities. However, DOT recognizes that cities, 
Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and State Departments of 
Transportation (State DOTs) are best positioned to understand the 
complexities of freight movement in individual urban areas, including 
current freight movement patterns, and plans or projections for shifts 
in freight movement within the urban areas. The DOT strongly urges 
these agencies to act in partnership to reach out to freight facility 
owners and operators to: (1) Review and provide comments to DOT on the 
inclusion of these and other facilities in the highway PFN; (2) 
consider inclusion of these facilities in State and Metropolitan 
Freight Plans; (3) provide comments and suggestions to DOT for a 
metropolitan area process similar to the CRFC designation for critical 
urban freight routes; (4) undertake a metropolitan area process similar 
to the CRFC designation for critical urban freight routes; and (5) 
jointly identify for DOT more precise data that could be used in the 
identification of critical urban freight routes.

Process for Designating the Draft Initial Primary Freight Network

    In undertaking the highway PFN analysis, DOT developed multiple 
scenarios to identify a network that represents the most critical 
highway portions of the United States freight system. The DOT welcomes 
comment on the following methodology.

Highway Primary Freight Network Data Sources

    The draft initial highway PFN was informed by measurable and 
objective national data. In performing the analysis that led to 
development of the draft initial highway PFN, FHWA considered the 
following criteria and data sources, which are further described at the 
following Web locations:

[[Page 69522]]

              Factor                             Data source
Origins/destinations of freight     FHWA Freight Analysis Framework
 movements.                          (FAF) 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/.
Freight tonnage and value by        FAF 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/
 highways.                           freight/freight--analysis/faf/.
Percentage of Average Annual Daily  FHWA Highway Performance Monitoring
 Truck Traffic (AADTT) on            System (HPMS) 2011 AADTT http://
 principal arterials.                www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/
AADTT on principal arterials......  HPMS 2011 AADTT http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/hpms.cfm.
Land & maritime ports of entry....  U.S. Department of Transportation
                                     Maritime Administration (MARAD)
                                     Containers by U.S. Customs Ports
                                     http://www.marad.dot.gov/documents/Container_by_US_Customs_Ports.xls ls.
                                    DOT Bureau of Transportation
                                     Statistics (BTS) Transborder data
                                    U.S. Army Corps, Navigation Data
                                     Center, special request, October
                                     2012 via BTS.
Airports..........................  Federal Aviation Administration
                                     (FAA) CT 2011 Cargo Airports by
                                     Landed Weight http://www.faa.gov/airports/planning_capacity/passenger_allcargo_stats/passenger/media/cy11_cargo.xlsx.
                                    FAA Aeronautical Information
                                     Services--Airport Database in the
                                     National Transportation Atlas
                                     Database (NTAD) 2013 www.bts.gov/programs/geographic_information_services/ services/.
Access to energy exploration,       United States Energy Information
 development, installation or        Administration Data http://
 production areas.                   www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_
                                    Pennwell Mapsearch data via Pipeline
                                     and Hazardous Materials Safety
                                     Administration (PHMSA) http://www.mapsearch.com.
                                    Pennwell Mapsearch data via PHMSA
                                    Pennwell Mapsearch data via PHMSA
Population centers................  2010 Census http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/geo/shapefiles2012/main.
Network connectivity..............  FAF 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/.
                                    FHWA National Highway Planning
                                     Network (NHPN) Version 11.09 http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/processes/tools/nhpn/ tools/nhpn/.
National Highway System Freight     FHWA National Highway System
 Intermodal Connectors.              Intermodal Connectors http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/national_highway_system/intermodal_connectors/ connectors/.
Railroads.........................  Federal Railroad Administration
                                     analysis of Rail Inc Centralized
                                     Station Master data https://www.railinc.com/rportal/29.
Origin and destination pairs......  FAF 3.4 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/.

Draft Initial Primary Freight Network Methodology

    The methodology employed by DOT in developing a draft initial 
highway PFN included the following steps:
    (1) The Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) and Highway Performance 
Monitoring System (HPMS) data sets were engaged to yield the top 20,000 
miles of road segments that qualify in two of the following four 
factors: Value of freight moved by highway, tonnage of freight moved by 
highway, annual average daily truck traffic (AADTT) on principal 
arterials, and percentage of AADTT in the annual average daily traffic 
on principal arterials.
    (2) Segments identified in Step 1 and gaps between 
segments were analyzed for network connectivity purposes. A network was 
created by connecting segments if the gap between segments was equal to 
or less than 440 miles (440 miles being the distance a truck could 
travel in 1 day). A segment was eliminated if it was less than one-
tenth of the length of the nearest qualifying segment on the highway 
    (3) Land ports of entry with truck traffic higher than 75,000 
trucks per year were identified. These land ports of entry were then 
connected to the network created in Steps 1 and 2.
    (4) The NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors within urban areas with a 
population of 200,000 or more were identified.\2\ The NHS Freight 
Intermodal Connectors included any connectors that had been categorized 
as connecting to a freight rail terminal, port, or pipeline. In 
addition, these NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors included routes to 
the top 50 airports by landed weight of all cargo operations. These 50 
airports represent 89 percent of the landed weight of all cargo 
operations in the United States. The NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors 
were connected back to the network created in Steps 1 and 
2 along the route with the highest AADTT using HPMS.

    \2\ Due to the timing of the highway PFN analysis DOT chose to 
use the Census defined urban areas (UZAs) rather than the adjusted 
UZAs that may be modified by states until June 2014.

    (5) Road segments within urban areas with a population of 200,000 
or more that have an AADTT of 8,500 trucks/day or more were 
identified.\3\ Segments were connected to the network established in 
Steps 1 and 2 if they were equal to or greater than 
one-tenth of the length of the nearest qualifying segment on the 
highway PFN. Those segments not meeting this rule were removed as they 
were more likely to represent discrete local truck movement activity 
unrelated to the national system.

    \3\ Ibid.

    (6) The network was analyzed to determine the relationship to 
population centers, origins and destinations, maritime ports, airports, 
and rail yards. Minor network connectivity adjustments were 
incorporated into the network.
    (7) The road systems in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, were 
analyzed using HPMS data. These routes would not otherwise qualify 
under a connected network model but play a critical role in the 
movement of products from the agriculture and energy sectors, as well 
as international import/export functions for their States and urban 
areas. Roads connecting key ports to population centers were 
incorporated into the draft initial highway PFN.
    (8) The network was analyzed to determine the relationship to 
energy exploration, development, installation, or production areas. 
Since the data points for the energy sector are scattered around the 
United States, often in rural areas, and because some of the related 
freight may move by barge or other maritime vessel, rail, or even 
pipeline, DOT did not presume a truck freight correlation, electing 
instead to leave this to the expert consideration of States

[[Page 69523]]

through the designation of the CRFCs or comments to the draft initial 
designation of the highway PFN.


    This methodology resulted in a comprehensive map of 41,518 
centerline miles, including 37,436 centerline miles of Interstate and 
4,082 centerline miles of non-Interstate roads.\4\ Since the statute 
limits the highway PFN to 27,000 centerline miles, the DOT then 
identified those segments with the highest AADTT. These road segments 
represented on the draft highway PFN map comprise 26,966 miles of 
centerline roads that reflect consideration of the criteria offered by 
Congress. This draft highway PFN results in an unconnected network with 
major gaps in the system, including components of the global and 
domestic supply chains. The DOT acknowledges that this 27,000-mile 
highway PFN does not meet the statutory criterion for network 
connectivity and would appreciate feedback on the importance of 
designating a connected highway PFN compared to achieving the 
connectivity with the addition of the Interstate routes in the 
designation of the NFN. Furthermore, we offer the comprehensive 41,518-
mile map to elicit suggestions as to how to proceed to a final 
designation of 27,000 miles.

    \4\ Commenters should note the 2011 HPMS database and the 
current FAF database differ in the delineation and exact geo-
location of the NHS system. This may result in 1%-2% plus/minus 
variation on the total mileage because the mileage is based on the 
geospatial network and actual mileage reported by States may vary 
due to vertical and horizontal curves that are not always accurate 
in GIS databases. The DOT will look to integrate the 2011 HPMS 
database with the FAF database to reduce variation in future 

    The DOT notes that goods movement occurs in a very fluid 
environment and during the drafting of MAP-21, Congress did not have 
access to the latest data on freight movement. As a point of 
comparison, the DOT took the major freight corridors map that was 
originally developed for Freight Story 2008 and ran an analysis in the 
spring of 2013 to see how that map would look using current data. This 
effort was done internally as part of the work to develop the highway 
PFN. The Freight Story 2008 map contained 27,500 miles of roads (26,000 
miles based on truck data and parallel intermodal rail lines and 1,500 
miles representing goods movement on parallel major bulk rail lines or 
waterways). Using the same methodology with 2011 HPMS and rail data, 
the mileage based solely on the truck and intermodal rail data grew to 
over 31,000 miles of roads, not including consideration of growth in 
other freight modes on parallel major bulk rail lines or waterways.

Additional Miles on the Primary Freight Network

    The Secretary of Transportation, under Section 167 of title 23, 
U.S.C., may increase the highway PFN by up to 3,000 centerline miles 
above the 27,000-mile limit, to accommodate existing or planned roads 
critical to future efficient movement of goods on the highway PFN.
    In the February 6, 2013, notice describing the planned process for 
the designation of the NFN, DOT outlined a process for determining 
facilities to be included in these additional 3,000 miles. The DOT 
indicated that in determining whether a route is critical to the future 
efficient movement of goods on the highway PFN, the Secretary will 
consider the factors identified for the designation of the highway PFN 
as well as one or more additional factors.
    In the draft initial designation of the highway PFN, DOT focused on 
freight routes critical to the current movement of freight. The 
Department is aware of emerging freight routes that will be critical to 
the future efficient movement of goods and believes there is value in 
expanding the highway PFN in the future to reflect these routes as the 
Nation grows.

Draft Initial Primary Freight Network Designation

    The DOT has posted the details of the draft initial highway PFN, 
including the 26,966-mile draft highway PFN map, the 41,518-mile 
comprehensive map, State maps and lists of designated routes, tables of 
mileage by State, and information regarding intermodal connectors and 
border crossings at: http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/nfn/index.htm.
    As previously noted, the statute places a cap on the designation of 
the highway PFN at 27,000 centerline miles. The tables and maps on the 
above Web site show a 41,518 mile connected network that DOT would 
prefer to designate if it were not constrained to 27,000 miles by the 
statute. The 27,000-mile subset shown in the map is only one option of 
many that DOT could choose to designate as the highway PFN. The DOT 
seeks comments on the routes identified in the draft initial highway 
PFN of 26,966 miles, including the specific identification of roadways 
that freight partners and stakeholders believe should be included or 
removed. In submitting comments relating to the deletion, addition or 
modification of roadways included in this draft highway PFN, commenters 
should provide information that addresses how the roadway relates to 
the factors identified above and in 23 U.S.C. 167(d).
    Further, DOT welcomes comments on the proposed approach and 
methodology to achieve a 27,000 mile network, considering such 
questions as: Connectivity; the treatment of urban area mileage and the 
concept of a critical urban freight corridor process; inclusion of 
border crossings of a certain level of truck volume; corridor-level 
designation; the adequacy of the network to identify bottlenecks and 
other freight infrastructure or operational needs, and more.

Designation of Rural Freight Corridors

    The designation of CRFCs by the States is described in 23 U.S.C. 
167(e), and provides that a State may designate a road within the 
borders of the State as a CRFC if the road is a rural principal 
arterial roadway and has at least 25 percent of the AADTT of the road 
measured in passenger vehicle equivalent units from trucks (FHWA 
vehicle class 8 to 13); provides access to energy exploration, 
development, installation or production areas; or connects the highway 
PFN, a roadway described above, or the Interstate System to facilities 
that handle more than 50,000 20-foot equivalent units per year, or 
500,000 tons per year of bulk commodities. The designation of CRFCs 
will be performed by State DOTs and provided to DOT after designation 
of the highway PFN is complete. Further guidance and technical 
assistance for identifying these corridors will be provided in the 
coming months. The FHWA will make an initial request of the States to 
identify CRFCs and will maintain route information for the rural 
freight corridors thereafter. There is no equivalent provision in the 
law for States to designate routes in urban areas.

National Freight Network Role

    Freight in America travels over an extensive network of highways, 
railroads, waterways, pipelines, and airways: 985,000 miles of Federal-
aid highways; 141,000 miles of railroads; 11,000 miles of inland 
waterways; and 1.6 million miles of pipelines. There are over 19,000 
airports in the United States, with approximately 540 serving 
commercial operations, and over 5,000 coastal, Great Lakes, and inland 
waterway facilities moving cargo.
    Section 167(c) of title 23, U.S.C., directs the Secretary to 
establish a NFN to assist States in strategically directing resources 
toward improved system performance for efficient movement of freight on 
the highway portion of the

[[Page 69524]]

Nation's freight transportation system. Nevertheless, while specific 
commodities are likely to be moved on a particular mode or series of 
modes, a complex multi-modal system is required to meet fully the 
growing volume of bulk and high-velocity, high-value goods in the 
United States.
    The DOT seeks to develop a NFN to provide connectivity between and 
throughout the three elements that comprise the NFN (highway PFN, 
Remainder of the Interstate System, and CRFC). The DOT recognizes that 
as a highway-only network, the NFN is an incomplete representation of 
the system that is required to efficiently and effectively move freight 
in the United States. Consistent with the national freight policy in 
MAP-21, DOT's goal is to designate a highway PFN that will improve 
system performance, maximize freight efficiency, and be effectively 
integrated with the entire freight transportation system, including 
non-highway modes of freight transport.
    The DOT seeks comments on how the NFN fits into a larger multimodal 
national freight system and how a multi-modal national freight system 
may be defined.

Use of the National Freight Network in the Future

    In creating the NFN, Congress stated that a NFN shall be 
established to assist States in strategically directing resources 
toward improved system performance for efficient movement of freight on 
the highway portion of the Nation's freight transportation system. 
Congress specified that the highway PFN shall be comprised of not more 
than 27,000 miles of existing roadways that are most critical to the 
movement of freight.
    The DOT is seeking comments as to how the designation of the NFN 
and highway PFN could be used by and benefit public and freight 
stakeholders. We also welcome comments regarding potential undesirable 
applications of the NFN and highway PFN. The DOT encourages widespread 
input to this proposed draft to provide a thorough examination of the 
diverse issues presented in this notice.

National Freight Network Designation

    The following is the approximate schedule for designation of the 
    1. Initial designation of highway PFN--Fall 2013
    2. Compilation of State-designated CRFC routes--Late 2013--Early 
    3. Release of the initial designation of the full NFN (including 
highway PFN, rest of the Interstate System, CRFCs)--2014

    Authority: 23 U.S.C. 167; Section 1115 of Pub. L. 112-141.

    Issued on: November 8, 2013.
Victor M. Mendez,
FHWA Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2013-27520 Filed 11-18-13; 8:45 am]