[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 205 (Friday, October 23, 2015)]
[Pages 64477-64490]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-27036]



Federal Highway Administration

[Docket No. FHWA-2013-0050]

Final Designation of the Highway Primary Freight Network

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of 
Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice; response to comments.


SUMMARY: This notice publishes the final designation of the highway-
only Primary Freight Network (highway-only PFN). Section 167(d) of 
title 23, United States Code (U.S.C.) requires the Secretary of 
Transportation to establish the highway-only PFN and re-designate it 
every 10 years, giving consideration to certain factors. This 
designation meets the requirements of the law, but the Department and a 
multitude of public comments recognize that the highway-only PFN fails 
to demonstrate that freight moves through a complex and extensive 
network of highways, railroads, waterways, pipelines, and airways. 
While specific commodities are likely to be moved on a particular mode 
or series of modes, a complex multimodal system is required to carry 
the growing volume of bulk and high-velocity, high-value goods in the 
United States. In addition, the 27,000-mile cap required by the law 
does not yield a PFN representative of all the critical highway 
elements of the United States freight system. While the Department is 
designating the highway-only PFN to meet the statutory requirements of 
the authorizing law, the Department is concurrently and simultaneously 
proposing a comprehensive Multimodal Freight Network for public comment 
in the draft National Freight Strategic Plan to identify key 
infrastructure for all modes that is critical for the efficient 
movement of freight.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about this program, 
contact Coral Torres, FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations, 
(202) 366-7602, or by email at [email protected]. For legal 
questions, please contact William Winne, FHWA Office of the Chief 
Counsel, (202) 366-1397, or by email at [email protected]. Business 
hours for the FHWA are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., EST/EDT, 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. You may also download an electronic copy 
of this document 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, U.S.C., directs the Secretary to 
establish a National Freight Network (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.
    Under 23 U.S.C. 167(c), the NFN will consist of three components: 
The highway-only PFN, the portions of the Interstate System not 
designated as part of the highway-only PFN, and Critical Rural Freight 
Corridors (CRFC), which are designated by the States.

[[Page 64478]]

    The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) 
limited the highway-only PFN to not more than 27,000 centerline miles 
of existing roadways that are most critical to the movement of freight. 
In addition, MAP-21 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-only PFN. The MAP-21 instructed DOT to 
base the highway-only PFN on an inventory of national freight volumes 
conducted by the FHWA Administrator, in consultation with stakeholders, 
including system users, transport providers, and States. The MAP-21 
defined eight factors to consider in designating the highway-only 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.
    Section 167(d)(3) of title 23, U.S.C., mandates that the Secretary 
shall re-designate the highway-only PFN every 10 years. The highway-
only PFN announced by this notice is the first iteration of the 

Multimodal Freight Network

    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; 28,000 miles waterways; and 
more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines. There are over 13,000 
airports in the United States, with approximately 500 serving 
commercial operations, and over 5,000 coastal, Great Lakes, and inland 
waterway facilities moving cargo. While specific commodities are likely 
to be moved on a particular mode or series of modes, a complex 
multimodal system is required to carry the growing volume of bulk and 
high-velocity, high-value goods in the United States. For freight 
shipments moving more than 750 miles (the distance beyond which the 
benefits of multimodal shipping are more pronounced), 35 percent of 
U.S. freight by value (including air freight and mails) moves on 
multiple freight modes. And while 70 percent of freight by weight and 
64 percent by value is moved by truck, the goods moved may be processed 
foods, manufactured goods or other finished products that were carried 
on other modes or include raw materials that traveled by other modes 
during an earlier stage of production.
    Public comments on the draft highway-only PFN requested 
consideration of a network that was reflective of the Nation's entire 
multimodal freight system. While the DOT recognizes that freight is 
moved through the country by a complex multimodal system, MAP-21 
mandated that the highway-only PFN consist solely of ``existing 
roadways that are most critical to the movement of freight.'' (23 
U.S.C. 167(d)(1)(A)(ii)) As a result, the final highway-only PFN 
announced by this notice does not identify or prioritize other modal 
aspects of the U.S. freight system.
    In recognition of the public comments indicating the need for a 
multimodal NFN that reflects the key components of each transportation 
mode in the nation's freight system, DOT is concurrently and 
simultaneously proposing a comprehensive Multimodal Freight Network 
(MFN) as part of the release of the National Freight Strategic Plan. 
The Department engaged all DOT modes with freight relevance (Federal 
Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Maritime 
Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration 
and the Federal Aviation Administration) in building an MFN to identify 
key infrastructure for all modes that are critical for freight 
    As part of this multimodal effort, DOT considered the feedback 
provided on the designation of the highway-only PFN (described below in 
this notice) and built a multimodal network using revised thresholds 
and a modified set of criteria, without the constraints of a mileage 
cap. This MFN was designed to satisfy the National Freight Policy goals 
and objectives at a multimodal level. The DOT will seek additional 
feedback from public and private transportation stakeholders in order 
to better identify what the goals, objectives and future use of this 
MFN will be at the regional, State, and local levels. The Department 
will also work with stakeholders to identify critical urban and rural 
connectors and corridors.


    In the Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated 
Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities 
throughout America Act (GROW AMERICA), the Administration proposed to 
improve national freight policy to give it a multimodal focus. To this 
end, the GROW AMERICA would streamline existing law by eliminating the 
highway-only PFN and CRFCs and establish a multimodal NFN to inform 
public and private planning, to prioritize Federal investment, aid the 
public and private sector in strategically directing resources, and 
support Federal decisionmaking. This network would consist of 
connectors, corridors and facilities in all transportation modes most 
critical to the current and future movement of freight in the national 
freight system. The proposal would ensure a more accurate and relevant 
network by shortening the period of re-designation to a 5-year cycle 
and would require consideration of public input, including that from 
Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) and States on critical 
freight facilities that are vital links in national or regionally 
significant goods movement and supply chains.

Purpose of the Notice

    The purpose of this notice is to publish the final designation of 
the highway-only PFN as required by 23 U.S.C. 167(d), provide 
information about the methodology and data used in the designation, and 
provide an analysis of the comments received on the draft designation 
of this network.

Final Designation of the Primary Freight Network

    With this notice, the FHWA Administrator, based on the delegation 
of authority by the Secretary, officially designates the final highway-
only PFN. This final designation includes the same routes identified in 
the draft highway-only PFN, previously released on November 19, 2013 
(78 FR 69520). Links illustrating the 26,966 miles on the highway-only 
PFN are available on the Web site maintained by FHWA (http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/pfn/index.htm). The DOT 
provides this final highway-only PFN to comply with the requirements of 
23 U.S.C. 167. However, due to the challenges experienced in developing 
a network that would adhere to MAP-21 requirements and convey the full 
nature of the Nation's freight system, the Department recommends 
consideration of an alternative multimodal network using a revised 
methodology that includes criteria supported by the public comments on 
the designation of the highway-only PFN, such as the one proposed in 
GROW AMERICA or provided for public comment in the draft National 
Freight Strategic Plan.

[[Page 64479]]

Analyses of Comments on the Draft Designation of the Highway-Only PFN 
and NFN

    On November 19, 2013, FHWA published the draft designation of the 
27,000-mile highway-only PFN in the Federal Register at 78 FR 69520. 
The initial notice also provided a larger network of routes (a 41,518-
mile comprehensive highway-only PFN) for consideration and information 
regarding State designation of the CRFCs and the establishment of the 
complete NFN. The FHWA asked stakeholders to review the draft highway-
only PFN and provide feedback.
    Stakeholders requested additional time to analyze the draft 
highway-only PFN methodology, maps, and the highway-only PFN's 
potential impact on their communities. In response to these requests, 
FHWA twice extended the public comment period. The comment period 
closed on February 15, 2014, at which point the docket recorded a total 
of 307 responses, including over 1,200 discrete comments. The following 
section presents a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the trends, 
themes, and patterns identified in the public comments.

Comments by Organization Type

    The initial highway-only PFN notice generated comments from a range 
of stakeholders in the private and public sectors. The following table 
identifies the number and percentage of comments received by 
organization type. The majority of comments came from MPOs, local 
government agencies, and State DOTs.

                                                                                     Number of
        Public or private stakeholders                  Organization type             comment      Percentage of
                                                                                      entries      comments \1\
Private.......................................  Business........................              22             7.2
                                                Industry Association............              21             6.8
                                                Private Citizen.................              21             6.8
Public/Private................................  Port............................              12             3.9
                                                Other...........................              33            10.7
Public........................................  State DOT.......................              51            16.6
                                                Federal Agency..................               2             0.7
                                                Foreign.........................               1             0.3
                                                Local Government Agency.........              64            20.8
                                                Metropolitan Planning                         68            22.1
                                                Other State Agency..............               5             1.6
                                                Regional Commission.............               2             0.7
                                                Congress........................               5             1.6
    Total.....................................  ................................             307           100.0

Comments by Subject Area

    \1\ Due to rounding, figures do not add to 100 percent.

    The FHWA asked stakeholders to review the draft highway-only PFN 
and provide feedback on five topics:
    1. Specific route deletions, additions or modifications to the 
draft designation of the highway-only PFN as outlined in the 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; 
    5. Suggestions for an urban-area route designation process.
    Most responses addressed two or more of the five topics, with 33 
percent focusing on the methodology and 21 percent commenting on route 
deletions, additions, or modifications.

                                                            Percent of
             Type of comment                 Number of    total comments
                                             comments           \2\
1. Specific route deletions, additions               267            21.2
 or modifications.......................
2. Methodology for a 27,000 mile                     419            33.3
3. NFN use by freight stakeholders in                105             8.4
 the future.............................
4. NFN and a multimodal National Freight             135            10.7
5. Suggestions for an urban route                    174            13.8
 designation process....................
6. Funding Issues.......................             108             8.6
7. Request for Comment Extension........               6             0.1
8. Other................................              43             3.4
    Total Comments......................           1,257             100


    \2\ Due to rounding, figures do not add to 100 percent.

Specific Route Additions, Deletions or Modifications

    The highway-only PFN Web site provides information on the requested 
additions, deletions and modifications to the highway-only PFN as well 
as a map reflecting these routes and segments, which totaled 
approximately 8,400 additional or modified miles and 230 miles proposed 
for deletion. This information can be found in the following Web site: 


    The majority of comments related to route changes suggested that 
FHWA consider the addition of specific road

[[Page 64480]]

segments and facilities. However, in some cases, respondents requested 
that entire State and Interstate highways be included. The comments 
requesting that routes be added to the highway-only PFN most often 
cited one of the following reasons:
    1. Incorporating roads necessary for improving current freight 
    2. Incorporating roads necessary for planning future commodity 
growth on the segment;
    3. Affirming local freight planning efforts that identified the 
segment and/or facility as a major critical freight route or generator;
    4. Incorporating roads necessary to close gaps and connect one 
facility, city, region, or State to another;
    5. Incorporating roads necessary for resolving omissions of key 
segments and facilities such as those with major significance to 
national security and/or goods movement. Examples include: military 
facilities, airports, ports, bridges, rail yards and intermodal 
    6. Including the ``first'' and ``last'' mile of freight movements 
on routes designated in the draft highway-only PFN;
    7. Incorporating a route or facility related to an international 
trade corridor;
    8. Incorporating roads based on traffic counts and truck data 
indicating the segment is a critical link in the area's freight 
    9. Incorporating roads identified in the past by FHWA as a 
``Corridor of the Future'' or that may become critical to the future 
movement of freight; and/or,
    10. Including new, planned roads that, when constructed, will--
    [cir] Provide continuity in the freight network;
    [cir] Provide a connection to population centers;
    [cir] Provide connectivity to intermodal facilities;
    [cir] Relieve congestion on existing Interstates; and
    [cir] Provide benefits to national commerce as a route in a long-
distance trucking corridor.

Deletions and Modifications

    Some respondents submitted requests for deletions and/or 
modifications to the highway-only PFN. The reasons offered for these 
requests included the following:
    1. A desire to emphasize a different or more logical route than 
that included in the highway-only PFN (respondents often expressed that 
their agencies conducted evaluations using a different methodology or 
criteria that yielded other routes as more freight-relevant than the 
ones proposed in the draft highway-only PFN);
    2. A desire to discourage non-local truck traffic through an area 
such as a neighborhood, commercial district, or downtown; requests to 
remove local streets not connected to freight facilities; and
    3. Erroneous or outdated facility names.
    The FHWA appreciates the comments requesting additions, deletions, 
or modifications to the draft highway-only PFN. In analyzing the route-
related comments, FHWA determined that the level of information or data 
solicited in the draft highway-only PFN designation and provided 
through comments did not provide the specificity necessary to make 
accurate or consistent modifications to the network. For example, in 
order to change a route designation it is important to have mile marker 
identification of segments and common data years (in the case of data-
driven segments). Although some respondents provided information such 
as beginning and end points or name of a route or facility (such as a 
specific intermodal connector), their requests to add, delete, or 
modify the designation of the routes and facilities did not comply with 
the criteria and threshold used for the draft designation, or different 
data sources were used as a justification.
    Despite the lack of specificity in the data provided by commenters, 
many additions and modifications reflected some aspect that FHWA 
considers relevant for the efficiency, reliability, safety, and 
sustainability of the freight system and may have been incorporated 
into the highway-only PFN if not for the current mileage cap imposed by 
the law. Therefore, although no route modifications were made for the 
final designation of the highway-only PFN, FHWA considered these 
requests in its development of an alternative multimodal freight 
network, which is discussed in further detail in the National Freight 
Strategic Plan as displayed here: http://www.transportation.gov/policy/freight/NFSP.

Methodology for Achieving a 27,000-Mile Designation

    Approximately 420 comments addressed the methodology for achieving 
a 27,000-mile designation. The commenters expressed concern regarding 
the complexity of the process for developing a highway-only PFN that 
incorporates the criteria identified in MAP-21 and appreciated the 
challenge of adhering to only 27,000 centerline miles of roads. Other 
comments were critical of the criteria, concept, and data used for the 
designation. The following subsections summarize comments on the 

Limitations of the 27,000 Centerline Miles Threshold

    Comments regarding the highway-only PFN's centerline mileage 
threshold expressed concern that combining multiple network criteria 
with a mileage cap does not yield a highway-only PFN representative of 
the most critical highway elements of the United States freight system. 
Virtually all respondents preferred the sample 41,518-mile 
``comprehensive'' (yet highway-only) network offered by DOT for 
comparison. Some respondents recommended that DOT work with Congress to 
develop statutory language to designate a more comprehensive and 
connected highway freight network that links directly to other freight 
modes. These commenters asked that Congress either (1) eliminate or 
raise the mileage threshold, or (2) use a corridor basis instead of the 
statutorily required centerline roadway mile basis. Some respondents 
sought a connected 27,000-mile network of key freight routes but did 
not provide a specific set of criteria. Others proposed that the 
highway-only PFN incorporate the entire Interstate System in a non-
statutory designation. Respondents also noted that the comprehensive 
network (e.g., the 41,518-mile network) included many of the highway 
freight routes necessary to ensure sufficient connections to Land Ports 
of Entry (LPOE) to Mexico and Canada and maritime ports of entry in 
coastal states that are important for the Nation's global 
    Section 167 of title 23, U.S.C., specifies that the highway-only 
PFN designation cannot exceed a cap of 27,000 centerline roadway miles. 
Therefore, in order to comply with Federal law, the final highway-only 
PFN designation comprises no more than 27,000 centerline miles (and 
includes the LPOEs for the most freight-active border crossings by 
truck volumes).

Highway-Only PFN Criteria and Designation Methodology

    This subsection discusses the comments on the statutory criteria 
and the methodology developed by FHWA for the highway-only PFN 
designation process. Some respondents proposed reconfiguring the 
highway-only PFN to connect significant freight origins and 
destinations for agriculture, energy production, manufacturing, mining, 
and national defense to other key infrastructure such as the Interstate 
system, ports of entry, and intermodal connectors. Some respondents 
expressed concern that agriculture was

[[Page 64481]]

not listed as a specific factor for consideration. They felt that the 
factor pertaining to the value of goods failed to give sufficient 
weight to the movement of agricultural products. These respondents 
commented that the NFN should directly address the importance of 
agriculture to the U.S. and, without this focus; the resulting network 
would be flawed. They suggested the use of criteria to better reflect 
the movement of agricultural products by truck from field to market, 
directly or by railheads, rather than measuring the movement of 
imported goods. These commenters cited domestic agricultural 
commodities as being vital to the U.S. economy and the health and well-
being of the U.S. population and stated that agricultural goods are 
among the most significant generators of truck-freight in several 
States. Some of these respondents commented that identifying routes in 
the NFN can enhance energy, agricultural, and natural resource freight 
movement and provide new opportunities for economic development.
    In response, FHWA acknowledges that to better represent the 
movement of agricultural products on the freight system, it would be 
necessary to consider the data and the road-, rail-, air- and water-
based routes of a multimodal freight system. National data shows 
agricultural products as being some of the top commodities under 
current models and forecasted trends. The current highway-only PFN 
methodology does not prioritize for type of commodity and was intended 
to be supplemented by CRFCs that could include routes serving key 
agricultural facilities. The FHWA believes a multimodal freight network 
map would more accurately depict the movement of agricultural 
commodities, which move by truck, rail, or barge, or combinations of 
these methods.
    Respondents also expressed concern for the lack of sensitivity in 
the model to routes seasonal fluctuations and spikes in volumes that 
have low annual averages, such as agricultural or forest products 
routes and energy development, production, and extraction areas. They 
felt that the freight mileage on these routes does not meet the 
highway-only PFN threshold yet still accommodates a degree of truck 
traffic relevant for inclusion in the network. Some comments proposed a 
separate prioritization process for seasonally critical agricultural 
corridors beyond the CRFCs designation established in MAP-21 and a 
shorter re-designation cycle of the NFN and highway-only PFN to better 
capture these trends.
    In response, FHWA acknowledges that additional research, data and 
refinements to the model could be developed to capture freight surges. 
The FHWA will consider opportunities for incorporating seasonality or 
surges into future network development.
    Respondents also suggested modifications to the methodology and 
different thresholds for the criteria. Some noted that the initial step 
of the methodology should be changed to identify critical freight 
nodes. In this alternative methodology, the highway-only PFN would 
represent roadways that support certain critical freight nodes rather 
than a subset that carry the most freight (the format for the current 
methodology). The alternative methodology would then use additional 
analysis to define the subset of roadways most critical to serve these 
nodes. Respondents noted that by focusing on identifying critical 
roadways closest to freight nodes, this methodology would better 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.
    In response, FHWA notes that it explored the development of a 
highway-only PFN that started with critical freight nodes 
(predominantly urban areas and freight-intensive border crossings) and 
built out from these points. After analyzing the data and simulating 
the network, the Department selected a hybrid approach that used origin 
and destination data from the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) and 
cross-referenced it with these nodes using Average Annual Daily Truck 
Traffic (AADTT) as a guide for how freight moves, by both tonnage and 
value, between nodes. There are many ways to develop the highway-only 
PFN, and that is in part why the FHWA sought public comment on the 
methodology. The FHWA felt that a node-based map would require leaving 
routes within a node undesignated, as FHWA lacked data specificity for 
these routes. As a result, use of a node-based map would require an 
additional step and time to obtain public input or to develop better 
    The comments noted that while the methodology itemized several 
factors considered for the draft network, it appears the base was drawn 
using AADTT and then adding or subtracting to accommodate each of the 
other factors. Respondents believed this may give undue weight to 
densely populated regions with the associated large regional 
distribution movements. Respondents also noted that this led to 
illogical results that appear to be related to data discrepancies 
between States.
    Comments also addressed thresholds for the criteria used for 
designation. Several comments flagged the limits for AADTT and 
population used in the designation process as being too high. In 
particular, comments noted that the AADTT threshold of 8,500 trucks to 
identify roadway segments was set too high and precluded the 
establishment of a rational and connected national network, which they 
argued was the fundamental task of the national designation. 
Respondents advocated for a percent of trucks in the AADTT and a 1,500 
AADTT threshold for the highway-only PFN. The commenters felt that 
these changes could provide a more useful picture of the freight 
economic corridors the Nation relies on to support interstate and 
international commerce.
    Respondents also noted that the functional classification of 
roadways should be changed to include collectors and above, and to 
consider the allowance of lower vehicle classifications of truck 
traffic. Others argued that the percentage of trucks should not be the 
deciding factor but rather one of many factors considered for highway-
only PFN designation, including connectivity to and between freight 
facilities. Finally, respondents believed the 25 percent AADTT 
requirement proposed for designating a CRFC corridor would be too 
restrictive for identifying urban area routes; they proposed using a 
separate data threshold for urban area freight corridor designation.
    In response, FHWA acknowledges that AADTT levels had a fundamental 
role in the highway-only PFN designation process. The FHWA selected the 
AADTT and percent of truck traffic thresholds to meet the 27,000-mile 
limitation set in statute. The CRFC threshold of 25 percent truck 
traffic was set by statute in MAP-21. When identifying data from 
certain roadway classification and truck types, the FHWA focused on 
aspects of freight that would be most relevant to national goods 
movement, while also limiting the scope of the highway-only PFN to meet 
the mileage threshold.
    Respondents expressed that to develop the highway-only PFN 
effectively, FHWA must provide a stronger consultative role for State 
DOTs to identify the critical individual State components of the 
highway-only PFN. They felt that FHWA should build as much flexibility 
into the designation process as possible, especially by providing the 
States with an

[[Page 64482]]

opportunity to identify an alternative network of freight highway 
routes or corridors. Further, the States were thought to be in the best 
position to regularly review the designated network for updates and 
    In response, FHWA agrees that involvement of State DOTs, MPOs, 
local agencies, and the private sector is key to developing a national 
or primary freight network. The FHWA also recognizes the need to have 
national consistency in the approach and scale of facilities included 
on a freight network. The FHWA encourages States to use State Freight 
Plans and to consult with State Freight Advisory Committees to identify 
facilities most critical to freight movement in each State.
    A few comments recommended using the United States Census 
definition for urban areas instead of those with a population of 
200,000 or more. In the Census definition, urbanized areas consist of 
territory that contains 50,000 or more people. Respondents criticized 
FHWA's use of the higher population threshold to meet the ``arbitrary'' 
limit of 27,000 centerline miles. Respondents noted that significant 
national and international trade flows to and from mid-size communities 
across the country are missed at the 200,000 population level.
    In response, FHWA recognizes that the approach employed for 
connecting population areas of 200,000 or greater risks bypassing areas 
of important freight activity. However, FHWA encountered difficulty 
keeping the highway-only PFN to under 27,000 centerline roadway miles 
under scenarios that included all population centers of 50,000 or more 
    Furthermore, the lack of a stated application for the highway-only 
PFN and NFN introduced uncertainty into the designation process. 
Without a better understanding of the goals for the highway-only PFN, 
it was challenging to weight the factors for designation and to gauge 
which resulting network would best meet freight planning and investment 
needs. Each individual criterion yields different network coverage when 
compared to the other factors. The FHWA undertook an extensive research 
effort to fully understand the challenges of the proposed criteria and 
to develop a methodology that would generate the most comprehensive 
network. This resulted in dozens of scenarios that did not satisfy the 
mileage cap or the inclusion of all of the statutory criteria. The 
aggregation of these factors results in a map that is difficult to 
limit to 27,000 miles without some significant prioritization of the 
factors and their thresholds. Further, FHWA acknowledges that the 
27,000-mile highway-only PFN does not meet the statutory criterion for 
network connectivity. To fix these problems, the alternative 
methodology applied by FHWA during the highway-only PFN development 
resulted in the second, comprehensive map that exceeded the statutory 
cap but is inclusive of all the criteria suggested in MAP-21 and 
reaches more population centers.

Centerline Versus Corridor Approach

    The majority of respondents expressed concern regarding the 
fragmented nature of the highway-only PFN. While it was widely 
understood that the non-contiguous highway-only PFN resulted from a 
need to meet competing statutory factors under a mileage threshold, 
respondents recommended that FHWA designate a continuous and linked 
multistate network of transportation infrastructure that provides a 
high level of support for international, national, and State economies. 
Some suggested the highway-only PFN use a corridor approach instead of 
the statutory requirement for measuring centerline roadway miles. 
Respondents agreed with FHWA's suggestion that corridor-level analysis 
and investment has the potential for widespread freight benefits and 
can improve the performance and efficiency of the highway-only PFN.
    These respondents provided suggestions for a more comprehensive 
corridor-based approach to the highway-only PFN to designate multiple 
parallel routes in each region that provide a high level of support for 
international, national, and State economies and connect regional 
population and economic centers. Comments noted that the use of 
corridor miles rather than centerline miles would allow greater 
flexibility for States and local jurisdictions for funding 
opportunities and in applying future performance measures, not only to 
a single identified route but also to important intermodal and urban 
connectors as well as nearby parallel routes for use in freight-related 
congestion mitigation. In addition, commenters noted that these 
corridor designations will better correspond to a truly multimodal 
freight network to avoid or allow (as needed) route redundancies 
between all surface modes.
    In response, FHWA agrees that a corridor approach for a highway 
network allows for coverage of multiple routes as well as freight 
facilities that satisfy the criteria in MAP-21. However, such an 
approach will not meet the centerline highway miles requirement of MAP-
21. Also, because MAP-21 directed the Secretary to create a highway-
only PFN, the lack of consideration of water freight and rail freight 
movements yields an incomplete representation of the nation's freight 

Data Limitations and Accuracy

    The majority of comments that discussed the sources and limitations 
of data agreed that the national data sets utilized in the development 
of the draft highway-only PFN were insufficient to understand fully the 
behavior of freight at the regional and local levels. Respondents 
mentioned that the data used to develop the highway-only PFN do not 
accurately reflect freight movements at the State, regional, and local 
level and that the designation of this network relies on outdated 
information. Points raised included concerns that existing sources of 
data are fragmented, incomplete, and often not useful in supporting 
transportation operations, policy, and investment decisions. For 
example, one State noted that the Functional Classification Evaluations 
in their State had not been updated for over 20 years.
    Respondents also expressed a view that the quality of the Highway 
Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) data, which were used to identify 
AADTT, varies greatly from State to State and depends upon the quantity 
and location of counts, the age and frequency of counts, and the upkeep 
of counting equipment. Respondents also felt that the highway-only PFN 
methodology did not take into account more complete and accurate data 
available from States, MPOs, and other local stakeholders. Comments 
suggested that FHWA coordinate with the States and their planning 
partners to ensure the currency and validity of the data sources that 
support the analyses conducted over the course of MAP-21 policy 
development and implementation. Respondents suggested that the next 
reauthorization fund a comprehensive data program that enables DOT, 
States, and MPOs to undertake the freight analysis and planning called 
for in MAP-21 at the national, State, and regional levels. Comments 
indicated that such a program should include safety data. Because 
significant freight facilities for energy transport appear in more 
remote areas and in outlying urban areas, respondents noted that data 
should capture information in rural and smaller outlying urban areas, 
as well as major metropolitan centers.
    Comments noted that access to private sector data is needed as well 
as other

[[Page 64483]]

proprietary sources of real-time data. Respondents noted that such data 
can be used to map the most critical first- and last-mile segments, 
including rural areas. Comments also recommended giving DOTs and MPOs 
access to reliable and inexpensive data to conduct sound planning.
    In response, FHWA notes that goods movement occurs in a very fluid 
environment. During the development of the draft highway-only PFN, and 
as an internal reference point of comparison to an earlier mapping 
effort, FHWA 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. The Freight 
Story 2008 map contained 27,500 miles: 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, data revealed that the 
mileage based solely on the truck and intermodal rail activity had 
grown to over 31,000 miles of roads since 2008, not including 
consideration of growth in other freight modes on parallel major bulk 
rail lines or waterways.
    The FHWA recognizes that the data utilized for the development of 
the final highway-only 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 at the 
regional and local levels. In particular, urban areas 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 also occur in rural areas, do not 
always show up in data sets. In order to develop a network that 
provides a better picture of freight in urban and rural areas, 
additional data collection at State and local levels is needed to 
improve the assessment of local and regional freight trends. This will 
require coordination with stakeholders at a local, State, and regional 
level. This data could provide a better understanding of seasonal and 
regional trends around the country that national data sets often do not 
    The FHWA acknowledges a continuing national need for more robust 
data collection methods. The FHWA also acknowledges that additional 
coordination with MPOs and State DOTs is needed for future designation 
of the highway-only PFN and any other freight networks to address some 
of the data issues of the final highway-only PFN. As part of its 
development of an MFN and for any future designation of the highway-
only PFN or other freight networks, DOT will seek additional 
coordination with MPOs and State DOTs to address some of the outlying 
issues remaining in this iteration of the network.

NFN Use by Freight Stakeholders in the Future

    Because MAP-21 did not provide a specific purpose for the highway-
only PFN, it was challenging to establish thresholds in the methodology 
and prioritize criteria to achieve the mileage limitation when it was 
unclear how the highway-only PFN and the NFN would be utilized. To 
better inform the process, FHWA sought comments on how the NFN and its 
components could be used by freight stakeholders in the future. A 
number of respondents echoed the concern that the future use of the NFN 
and highway-only PFN could not be identified without understanding its 
purpose and goals in relation to transportation policy and programs. 
Respondents requested additional information from DOT and Congress, 
with some recommending that the next transportation bill clearly 
identify a policy and provide funding for NFN or highway-only PFN 
    Many comments linked the highway-only PFN to funding, believing the 
highway-only PFN would be eventually be used to prioritize funding for 
projects. Some respondents proposed that Congress use this network for 
strategic investment in freight on a national network of key freight 
routes by specifically directing Federal highway funding through a 
formula program apportioned to States. They felt it would be 
appropriate for Congress to direct most of this funding to the NFN, 
with the addition of urban routes. There was concern about using the 
more limited highway-only PFN to allocate or apportion resources 
without making adjustments to the methodology. Suggestions for 
improving the map for directing investment included using the NFN, 
which includes the Interstate System, and adding urban routes, 
intermodal connectors, and last- and first-mile connectors.
    Some respondents indicated funding should not be directed until the 
designation is vetted by States and MPOs and that resources should not 
be directed away from other highway programs to fund NFN-related 
projects. Respondents also suggested that DOT work with Governors to 
develop and evaluate funding options for a multimodal NFN that takes 
into account States' transportation infrastructure assets and 
limitations as detailed in State Freight Plans. The notice elicited 
concerns relating to restrictions on the ability to shift 
infrastructure funding to non-designated facilities and the potential 
assessment of freight user fees.
    Other commenters were concerned that the NFN or highway-only PFN 
would be used in the future to impose restrictions on how the 
designated infrastructure could be used or impose minimum investment 
requirements. In addition, commenters raised concerns regarding the 
ease and speed of the re-designation process. Commenters also cautioned 
against using this network to direct the use of private property. 
Respondents requested that these and other potential issues be given 
consideration and that the government offer carefully structured and 
definitive guidance. In the absence of such guidance, respondents 
stated that they could not fully support the designation of any 
infrastructure, public or private, as a part of the highway-only PFN.
    Respondents viewed the NFN as a tool to facilitate a closer working 
relationship between the government and private sectors who share an 
interest in a fully-functioning freight system. Having State DOTs, 
MPOs, trucking companies, the manufacturing and warehousing industries, 
and other highway freight stakeholders participate in a closer working 
relationship would be helpful to determine where limited highway 
funding can best be invested and where it will have the greatest and 
most widespread positive return on investment. Respondents supported 
the use of the network to strategically direct resources to improve 
system performance for efficient movement of freight on the highway 
portion of the National Freight System. They projected that the most 
important outcome would be the ability to identify and focus attention 
on the highways and related projects that would target freight mobility 
problems and lead to improved freight flow to maintain and enhance U.S. 
economic activity.
    Respondents mentioned that the NFN may be a useful resource or tool 
in developing State Freight Networks and State Freight Plans. 
Respondents felt that designation of a highway-only PFN could aid 
States in such freight planning efforts as the designation of CRFCs, 
the development and update of State Freight Plans, input to State 
Freight Advisory Councils, and other planning activities. Respondents 
recommend that FHWA give greater weight to factors that States suggest, 
including consideration

[[Page 64484]]

of State Freight Plans that may already be developed.
    Respondents commented that the highway-only PFN could provide the 
locations to target for valuable data collecting efforts to measure the 
fluidity of highway freight network. For example, the identification of 
segments with the highest AADTT could provide the location of potential 
capacity constraints and congestion issues.
    In response, FHWA appreciates the concerns related to the lack of a 
stated application for the highway-only PFN and NFN. Without a better 
understanding of the goals for the highway-only PFN, the FHWA found it 
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. The aggregation of all the suggested criteria resulted 
in a map that was difficult to limit to 27,000 miles without some 
significant prioritization of the many factors and application of 
numerical thresholds in each measure.
    The FHWA believes a multimodal NFN as described in the Department's 
GROW AMERICA surface transportation proposal will have the ability to 
inform public and private planning, to help prioritize for Federal 
investment, to aid the public and private sector in strategically 
directing resources, and to support Federal decisionmaking to achieve 
the national freight policy goals.

NFN and Multimodal National Freight System

    Respondents provided feedback on how the NFN fits into a larger 
multimodal national freight system and how to define a multimodal 
national freight system. Nearly 11 percent of the comments addressed 
this topic. The majority of respondents on this topic acknowledged that 
the highway-only PFN is a highway-only network and that the highway-
only PFN and NFN are therefore incomplete in their representation of 
the multimodal system that is required to efficiently and effectively 
move freight in the United States. The FHWA agrees with these comments.
    Comments suggested the highway-only PFN be designated in a way that 
would ensure future inclusion of the other freight modes that comprise 
the Nation's freight and goods transportation system. Respondents also 
voiced concern that the draft highway-only PFN did not include most of 
the segments that make up the first and last mile of key freight 
movements, which include local roads providing access to ports, 
intermodal facilities, rail yards, and other freight facilities. FHWA 
agrees with these comments.
    Most respondents recognized these omissions were the result of the 
mileage cap and recommended FHWA advocate for the elimination of the 
mileage threshold. The FHWA agrees with these comments and has taken 
action by addressing this in both the Department's GROW AMERICA surface 
transportation proposal and the National Strategic Freight Plan.
    Respondents believe that the highway NFN could be an important 
modal component of a multimodal national freight system, but that the 
NFN is not sufficient to describe the entirety of a system that moves 
freight by a variety of modes. The FHWA agrees with these comments.
    Some comments strongly encouraged DOT to focus the National Freight 
Strategic Plan and other freight transportation work on the entire 
multimodal freight system, and recommended that the final highway-only 
PFN and NFN maps be overlaid with intermodal connectors, ports of 
entry, marine highways (waterborne routes), important inland river 
corridors and Class 1 rail lines to show a more comprehensive surface 
transportation network critical to the movement of freight. The FHWA 
agrees with these comments and has followed this recommendation.
    Comments indicated the NFN should be combined with the other modes 
of transportation to form a true multimodal system that operates 
economically, efficiently, and harmoniously in the movement of freight 
both nationally and internationally. Respondents suggested building 
upon the FHWA's initial 41,518 centerline mile highway network as a 
basis for ultimately developing a more comprehensive, multimodal 
freight network. In addition, comments noted that FHWA and State DOTs 
should compare the highway freight network map with strategic freight 
railroad, waterway system, and aviation maps to locate connectivity 
gaps. Commenters recommended that highway routes connecting to 
intermodal facility locations be included in the NFN to ensure that the 
network reflects a well-connected multimodal freight system. The FHWA 
agrees with these comments and believes this is an activity that should 
be undertaken by DOT in consultation with States and MPOs.
    Many respondents supported the expansion of this network to a more 
broadly defined multimodal network. They recommend that dedicated 
funding be made available to support projects included in an approved 
Regional Transportation Plan to enhance the performance and efficiency 
of the highway-only PFN and NFN, as well as to mitigate adverse freight 
movement impacts on surrounding communities and include eligibility for 
highway-rail grade separations and other mitigation projects located 
along nationally significant trade corridors.
    In summary, FHWA agrees with the comments. In response to these 
recommendations, FHWA is providing the final designation of the 
highway-only PFN as required by MAP-21, while concurrently and 
simultaneously releasing a MFN as part of the National Freight 
Strategic Plan. The release of this Plan coincides with the issuance of 
this notice, and the Department will seek public comment on its 
proposed MFN.

Suggestions for an Urban-Area Route Designation Process

    State DOTs and MPOs provided comments in partnership with freight 
facility owners in support of a metropolitan area designation process 
similar to the CRFC designation. The comments included suggestions for 
methodologies and more precise data that could be used in the 
identification of these critical urban freight routes. Almost 14 
percent of total comments related to this topic.
    Supporters felt this additional network modification is necessary 
to improve the accuracy and utility of the highway-only PFN. These 
commenters felt that the next reauthorization should make provisions 
for designation of urban freight routes and connectors. It was noted 
that metropolitan areas are the economic engines of the 21st Century 
economy and that most of the population and most of the high-value and 
high-tech manufacturing is in metropolitan areas. Comments also noted 
that much of the cost of moving freight is the result of the congestion 
encountered in urban areas.
    Respondents envisioned that the FHWA would reach out to local 
stakeholders to establish a formal urban-area route designation process 
and methodology. They felt strongly that State DOTs and urban 
representatives should be allowed to provide input on what factors 
might drive urban designations within the highway-only PFN. Respondents 
indicated they believe that State DOTs, MPOs, and other local agencies 
have the knowledge and data to identify the critical urban-area freight 
corridors and therefore these agencies should be responsible for

[[Page 64485]]

identifying the critical urban routes and submitting these to FHWA.
    Some comments proposed that FHWA provide the framework and basic 
guidelines for designation, but give States the ultimate responsibility 
in establishing parameters and thresholds, in addition to identifying 
the routes for inclusion in the network. The limits to be set by the 
States and localities, as proposed by the commenters, would take into 
consideration the freight demand relative to a State's population, 
consumption and production, and commodity flows for designating both 
rural and urban freight systems.
    Respondents suggested the use of the following criteria for the 
Critical Urban Freight Corridors (CUFC) designation: (1) High truck 
volume corridors; (2) strategic military facilities; (3) connections to 
major intermodal facilities; (4) significant freight intensive land 
uses on manufacturing and warehouse industrial lands; (5) energy 
exploration, development, installation, or production areas; (6) areas 
of significant congestion and delay for trucks; (7) locations of at-
grade highway rail crossings; (8) number and severity of truck crashes; 
(9) geometric deficiencies that inhibit safe or efficient truck 
movement; (10) negative community/environmental impacts caused by truck 
traffic; (11) motor carrier enforcement and safety efforts; (12) 
availability of overnight or safe truck parking; (13) connections 
between major points of entry or key trip generators and the highway-
only PFN (supported by locally derived data and analysis); (14) 
connectivity with the other elements of the NFN; and (15) freight 
value. Commenters did not support the inclusion of truck percent of 
AADT because they felt that it had little relevance in urban areas.
    Respondents expressed the view that both the national freight 
strategy and the networks should include consideration for the urban 
first and last miles needed to make a complete freight trip.
    Others suggested that FHWA should not set the thresholds for truck 
volume and percent for urban areas, but instead should require that 
each State set the truck volume and/or truck percent thresholds for 
their State. The commenters suggested that the context of percent truck 
traffic and/or truck volumes varied significantly across the country 
with regard to each State's consumption or production of goods and 
services and as a result, the thresholds should not be standardized for 
the Nation.
    In addition, comments noted that States should be responsible for 
working with State freight stakeholders as well as MPOs and Rural 
Planning Organizations (RPO) in the designation of such systems within 
their respective State and that States should coordinate with 
neighboring States to ensure systems take into consideration multistate 
freight flows. They also noted that as with the CRFC designation 
process, this process should allow flexibility for States and metro 
areas to determine the most strategic and important freight routes.
    Respondents believed that engaging State DOTs and MPOs in proposing 
urban-area freight routes would maximize the utility and relevance of 
each agency's existing freight planning processes, plans, and study 
initiatives. They felt that by elevating the responsibility of State 
and local entities to identify criteria, set targets, and identify 
CUFCs, freight planning would be in the forefront and freight plans 
would be aligned with other transportation, economic development, and 
environmental plans or programs.
    In response, FHWA recognizes that many highway freight bottlenecks, 
chokepoints and first and last mile connectors are located in both 
rural and urban areas. This makes these areas critical to the 
efficiency of domestic and international supply chains. Although 
Federal law provided a mechanism to enable connectivity to critical 
freight ``last mile'' origins and destinations in rural areas through 
the designation of CRFC by the States, the 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. Further, public 
and private sector representatives are increasingly emphasizing the 
significant role of cities and metropolitan areas in the safe and 
efficient movement of freight.
    Given the lack of precision of national data at the urban level, 
FHWA believes there is merit in establishing a process for MPOs, RPOs, 
and State DOTs to designate critical urban freight routes and critical 
rural freight corridors that may have been missed when analyzing 
national-level data but are nonetheless important for freight movement 
to, from, and through an urban and rural areas. The FHWA recognizes 
that cities are best positioned to understand the complexities of 
freight movement in individual urban and rural areas, including current 
freight movement patterns, and plans or projections for shifts in 
freight movement within these areas, and could assist in the 
identification of thresholds for use in the designation of CUFCs.
    In response to these comments, FHWA has begun developing 
preliminary concepts to aid in the designation of freight corridors 
should they be included in future legislation. The Department has also 
included language in GROW AMERICA surface transportation proposal that 
incorporates additional criteria in a NFN designation that gives 
consideration to bottlenecks and other impediments contributing to 
significant measurable congestion and delay in freight movement, 
facilities of future freight importance based on input from 
stakeholders, and an analysis of projections for future growth and 
changes to the freight system. In addition, the Department included 
language that considers elements of the freight system identified and 
documented by States and MPOs using national or local data as having 
critical freight importance to the region as part of the NFN.

Funding Issues

    Nearly 9 percent of total comments received mentioned funding. In 
general, respondents believe that the value of the highway-only PFN is 
limited without the provision of dedicated resources to address freight 
needs. Some referenced the need for these funds to maintain and enhance 
a multimodal national transportation system. Some commenters felt that 
existing Federal funding should not be diverted to the NFN unless 
current program funding levels could at least be maintained or 
expanded. Comments also noted that State DOTs and MPOs cannot fully 
comment on the impact of NFN designations without understanding the 
potential funding implications, which are not addressed in MAP-21. 
Further, they cautioned that the NFN should not be used to direct State 
or Federal investment in freight transportation systems until the 
network has been revised to reflect highways that serve continuous and 
efficient freight flow.
    The commenters also suggested that planning and policy work would 
be of limited value if funds are not provided to realize the planning 
vision. Comments noted the highway-only PFN and an expanded multimodal 
national freight system could help make the case for a program that 
leverages local, regional, and private funds to invest in critical 
freight infrastructure needs.
    Others respondents expressed concern about supporting a system that 
lacks connectivity and does not accurately represent freight trends. As 
previously discussed in this notice, some respondents recommended 
refraining from using the NFN for directing State or Federal investment 
in freight transportation systems. They noted that when the NFN has 

[[Page 64486]]

restructured to reflect highways that serve continuous and efficient 
freight flow and is supported by Federal funds accordingly, freight 
stakeholders should be able to use this system as a benchmark around 
which to center economic activity and investment. Others mentioned that 
they will likely focus investment and other decisions on the strategic 
freight network designated in their State freight plan rather than the 
NFN. Comments noted that some jurisdictions have already designated a 
strategic freight network of key corridors which connect additional 
areas of the State and provide redundancy to Interstate corridors.
    Most respondents expressed new funding should be prioritized to 
support sustainable economic vitality and global competitiveness for 
the U.S. Some respondents stated that this funding program should 
support national freight movement through enhancing the NFN by funding 
highway traffic count stations, truck weigh stations, truck rest area 
facilities, state of good repair for freight-traveled pavement and 
bridges, and operations management priorities such as congestion 
management and travel time reliability. Respondents suggested that 
funding could also be made available to support freight projects 
included in an approved Regional Transportation Plan or Transportation 
Improvement Program. In their view, these projects should be 
prioritized on the basis of demonstrable contribution to the 
performance and efficiency of the highway-only PFN and NFN, as well as 
to mitigate adverse freight movement impacts on surrounding 
    Respondents also noted that although MAP-21 provides modest funding 
for the Projects of National and Regional Significance (PNRS), they 
felt that the PNRS program should be expanded to provide freight 
funding using a more robust, multimodal PFN. They suggest an expanded 
PNRS program should build on considerable past efforts, including the 
freight corridor designations and funding program established under the 
previous Federal transportation authorization, the Safe, Accountable, 
Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users 
    In response, FHWA recognizes the need for additional freight 
investment in the U.S. That is why the GROW AMERICA proposes a six-
year, $9 billion multimodal freight incentive program and a 6-year, $9 
billion national freight infrastructure program. Given the increased 
emphasis on transportation performance management, FHWA believes it is 
prudent not to limit funding to a specific facility on a network map 
but to allow State and local governments, the private sector, and other 
entities to determine the best solutions to improving the safety and 
efficiency of the freight system through data and analysis in State 
Freight Plans and with the active engagement of the State Freight 
Advisory Committees.

Other Issues Raised in Comments

    The sections below summarize comments received on other issues 
raised in response to the solicitation of comments on the draft 
highway-only PFN.

Primary Freight Network Update Cycle

    Several comments raised concerns regarding the 10-year timeframe 
for updating the highway-only PFN. Comments expressed that this length 
of time does not reflect the changing nature of economic patterns and 
goods movement. Comments noted there are constant changes in market 
trends, population, infrastructure, technology, data, demographics, 
globalization, and investment. Respondents believe that a 10- or 20-
year cycle will not allow policy makers and stakeholders to make 
optimal use of time, resources, and funding. With the MPO planning 
process based on a 4-year cycle, and freight and rail plans updated on 
5-year cycles, respondents recommended FHWA pursue reducing the update 
cycle to match other metropolitan transportation planning cycles or at 
a minimum, provide an amendment process that enables States to request 
and receive approval for highway-only PFN changes between 10-year 
    In response, FHWA agrees that the current 10-year update cycle is 
not sufficient. The FHWA does not have statutory authority to change 
the re-designation cycle but has proposed a 5-year update cycle in the 
GROW AMERICA surface transportation proposal. The Department will also 
be proposing a 5-year update cycle as part of the MFN in the National 
Strategic Freight Plan.

Highway Safety Considerations

    A small number of respondents raised the issue of highway safety 
and the highway-only PFN. Stakeholders noted that safety issues and 
performance measures should be considered in the establishment of the 
NFN. These comments emphasize that safety data needs to be part of the 
analysis and improving safety on our freight systems should be a goal 
of any Federal action related to the establishment of a NFN. Comments 
noted that factors should include freight moved by trucks, truck crash 
rates, the underlying causes of highway deaths and injuries, and 
infrastructure maintenance and vulnerabilities. Respondents noted that 
the highway-only PFN should take into account these interactions and 
impacts on the traveling public, especially if the highway-only PFN 
designation will increase truck traffic on those roadways.
    In response, safety is the top priority for DOT and is a main goal 
of MAP-21's National Freight Policy. Although safety is not an express 
goal or factor in the designation of the highway-only PFN, each State's 
Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) affords a comprehensive approach 
and in-depth analysis for truck safety. The SHSPs are statewide, 
coordinated safety plans that provide a framework for reducing highway 
fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. An SHSP identifies 
a State's key safety needs and guides investment decisions toward 
strategies and countermeasure with the most potential to save lives and 
prevent injuries. States are required to develop, implement, evaluate, 
and update an SHSP that identifies and analyzes highway safety problems 
and opportunities on all public roads.
    Section 1118(b)(3) of MAP-21 requires that State Freight Plans 
include a description of how the plan will improve the ability of the 
State to meet the national freight goals established under section 167 
of title 23, U.S.C., which include safety, and consideration of 
innovative technologies and operational strategies to improve the 
safety of freight movement. Sections 1118(b)(5) and (6) of MAP-21 also 
require consideration of routes projected to substantially deteriorate 
due to heavy vehicles and of areas of reduced mobility such as 
bottlenecks. The interim guidance for developing State Freight Plans 
pursuant to MAP-21 includes numerous safety elements.
    There are data sources available to help States and MPOs measure 
these aspects of truck safety. The FHWA will work with our partners to 
ensure truck safety is considered and analyzed as appropriate in the 
SHSPs, as well as in State Freight Plans. The FHWA believes it is 
important to identify critical infrastructure through a multimodal 
freight network and to continue working with our partners and 
stakeholders to encourage actions to improve truck safety for these 
nationally significant areas and across the Nation's roadways.

Environmental and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Considerations

    Respondents noted that the highway-only PFN designation does not

[[Page 64487]]

incorporate environmental considerations, including greenhouse gas 
reduction and public health. More specifically, in the description of 
the methods and data sources used, no data sources incorporating 
environmental data were used. Comments noted this could be a critical 
element that would validate the designations and ensure that limited 
funding also provides environmental and public health benefits. 
Comments noted that the network should directly establish environmental 
and public health criteria (e.g., emission reduction benefits) that are 
used in the designation process and later used in assessment of 
projects receiving funding, priority, or other benefits. Comments also 
noted that including environmental criteria provides additional 
contextual data to the network for understanding implications of a 
proposed project or identifying alternatives when viewed as a map 
overlay or other analysis.
    In response, FHWA acknowledges the importance of understanding and 
mitigating the negative effects of freight on the environment and on 
communities. Freight projects, like other transportation projects, 
should consider and address environmental justice and access, air 
quality, water quality, and noise pollution, for example. With respect 
to mapping a freight network to reflect these aspects, however, the NFN 
and highway-only PFN requirements do not include factors relating to 
the environment or public health. The MAP-21 directed the Department to 
designate ``not more than 27,000 centerline miles of existing roadway 
that are most critical for the movement of freight'' in an NFN that is 
focused on ``improved system performance for efficient movement of 
freight.'' Further, national-level environmental data is limited in 
being able to offer a comprehensive assessment of these issues. In 
order to meet the various Federal requirements and advance human and 
environmental protection, the FHWA believes it is important to first 
identify the critical infrastructure in a multimodal freight network 
and then work with our partners and stakeholders to protect the 
environment and public health.

Designation of Private Roads and Rail Lines

    Several respondents discussed the inclusion of private roads and 
rail lines, with many calling for the incorporation of private rail 
systems in a multimodal PFN. However, respondents representing 
railroads expressed concern that there is no information as to how a 
designation of a facility as part of the highway-only PFN will be used 
in the future. As discussed more generally in the previous section on 
``NFN Use by Freight Stakeholders in the Future,'' commenters urged DOT 
to define the highway-only PFN's purpose before determining whether to 
include private infrastructure on the highway-only PFN or the NFN. 
Railroad stakeholders were concerned that Congress would establish 
minimum investment requirements or restrict future uses of the rail 
infrastructure. They questioned whether designation of private rail 
facilities would have consequences for funding decisions for these 
facilities, impact the ability to shift infrastructure funding to non-
designated facilities, or result in freight user fees.
    In response, FHWA acknowledges there are potential challenges 
related to designating private infrastructure as part of a highway-only 
PFN or NFN. However, because the Nation's multimodal freight system is 
comprised of both public and private infrastructure and the 
interdependencies, redundancies, and efficiencies of this entire 
network is relevant to understanding freight movement, it would be very 
beneficial to national and regional planning to include both types in a 
multimodal freight network. This is why we are concurrently and 
simultaneously releasing the draft Nation Freight Strategic Plan. The 
FHWA will continue to consider the implications of designating private 
and non-Federal infrastructure as they relate to the goals, objectives, 
and a future purpose of an MFN.

Intermodal Connectors

    Some respondents supported incorporating all intermodal 
connections, arguing that this was imperative in building a seamless 
highway-only PFN. Respondents also highlighted the importance of having 
an updated listing of NHS freight intermodal connectors on the highway-
only PFN map. Respondents recommended that intermodal connectors, 
specifically if they are adjacent to a trade gateway, major industrial, 
distribution and consumption area, seaport, river terminal or 
designated freight corridor, be prioritized for inclusion in the final 
highway-only PFN. Specific comments requested the inclusion of marine 
highways and urban intermodal connectors. Respondents also supported 
establishing a formal process for designating critical urban and rural 
freight routes that include first and last miles and/or intermodal 
    Comments touched on the need to include in the highway-only PFN 
more than just the intermodal connectors occurring in population 
centers of 200,000 or more. While the majority of commenters understood 
why FHWA chose to use the metric of AADTT to identify which segments of 
the NHS would appear on the highway-only PFN, there was confusion about 
why AADTT was not also used to measure and select intermodal 
connectors. Commenters were concerned with the fact that data sources 
used to analyze the intermodal connectors are incomplete. The 
respondents strongly recommended that FHWA consult with State DOTs, 
which, by working with their regional and local partners could assist 
the Federal Government in identifying routes that will ensure network 
connectivity to nationally significant intermodal facilities.
    In response, FHWA agrees that NHS intermodal connectors are vital 
elements of the NFN. If the highway-only PFN was not mileage-
constrained at 27,000 miles, priority consideration would be given to 
including all relevant urban and non-urban NHS freight intermodal 
connectors (these are included in the 41,518 mile comprehensive 
network). To adhere to the mileage cap, FHWA excluded those not meeting 
the AADTT threshold from the highway-only PFN. Regarding data, FHWA's 
listing of NHS intermodal connectors is current. However, FHWA does not 
have comprehensive data on the conditions and performance of each NHS 
intermodal connector. The FHWA supports efforts by infrastructure 
owners to collect comprehensive data on these facilities and update it 
on a frequent basis to help measure the performance of these 
connectors. The FHWA is conducting a research study to assess the 
conditions and performance of a representative sample of intermodal 
connectors. This information will assist the agency, its partners, and 
infrastructure owners in better assessing the current use of freight 
intermodal connectors, freight connector condition and performance, and 
in identifying connector impediments and solutions to allocate 
resources for the efficient flow of goods.

Military Bases/Facilities

    Respondents requested that FHWA add strategic military bases to the 
origins and destinations of freight movements to be considered in the 
highway-only PFN designation. Comments indicated this would help 
provide for logistics that support a strong national defense. 
Respondents sought inclusion of U.S. Military Power

[[Page 64488]]

Projection Platform locations, as well as seaports and airports, 
because of their importance to national defense and their role as 
centers of significant regional economic activity. Respondents 
mentioned that the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps have a list of power 
projection platforms, officially designated seaports of embarkation, 
and aerial ports of embarkation, that should be considered for the 
designation of these facilities. Respondents also noted that the 
Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Maritime Administration have 
designated certain commercial seaports as ``Strategic Ports'' as part 
of the National Ports Readiness Network, because of the significant 
role they play in supporting port readiness, emergency operations, and 
cargo throughput capacity for global projection of our Armed Forces. 
Respondents supported FHWA's focus on the efficiency of freight 
movement in the highway-only PFN and believe that a benefit to freight 
movement in general will be a benefit to DOD cargo movement.
    In response, FHWA acknowledges the importance of a variety of modes 
and types of facilities for the efficient movement of freight for the 
U.S. Armed Forces. The FHWA believes there are various national highway 
systems that have already been designated to meet the specific needs of 
the military and transportation of equipment and supplies. These 
systems include the U.S. Interstate Highway System, which was in part 
based on roads necessary for national defense, and the Strategic 
Highway Network (STRAHNET). The STRAHNET and the Strategic Rail 
Corridor Network were established as critical to DOD domestic 
operations, such as emergency mobilization and peacetime movement of 
heavy armor, fuel, ammunition, repair parts, food, and other 
commodities to support U.S. military operations. As a result, FHWA does 
not think access to every military base or strategic port needs to be 
part of the highway-only PFN. The DOT will consider how best to include 
them on the MFN. The FHWA has identified a number of intermodal 
connectors under the 41,000 comprehensive networks that connect to 
military bases/facilities and will include these NHS freight intermodal 
connectors in future designations of the highway-only PFN if the 
mileage cap is increased. In addition, the entire mileage of the final 
highway-only PFN is part of STRAHNET.

National Freight Advisory Committee (NFAC)

    The Secretary of Transportation established the National Freight 
Advisory Committee (NFAC) in 2013 to provide advice and recommendations 
on matters related to freight transportation in the United States. This 
Committee is composed of representatives from the public and private 
sector, local and State governments, labor unions, safety 
organizations, transportation organizations, freight shipping 
companies, and other freight stakeholder organizations. The NFAC 
undertook an extensive review of the draft designation of the highway-
only PFN and provided the comments and recommendations, which can be 
found here: https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/NFAC%20Joint%20Comment%20to%20Hwy%20PFN%20-Initial%20Comments%20Consolidated.pdf.
    The NFAC stated that it did not endorse the proposed highway-only 
PFN and directed its comments to both Congress and DOT. Its primary 
concerns were related to the size and nature of the 27,000 centerline 
miles limitation and the need for a multimodal freight network. The 
NFAC felt the draft highway-only PFN lacked critical elements of first 
and last mile connectors, especially in urban areas, as well as port 
connectors and North American gateway connections. The Committee 
preferred a hub- and corridor-based, multimodal approach for 
designation and opposed the statutory imposition of a mileage 
threshold. They urged DOT to proceed with a multimodal network, 
engaging the public and including an urban designation process. They 
supported the use of AADTT in a highway-only PFN. In the absence of a 
revised highway-only PFN, they preferred that funding be prioritized to 
solve truck congestion on existing freight corridors and gateways.
    Regarding the lack of a stated purpose for the PFN, the NFAC felt 
DOT should develop goals in coordination with a variety of public and 
private sector stakeholders and use these goals to inform the 
development of the Conditions and Performance Report and the National 
Freight Strategic Plan. They felt that these goals must address the 
intended use of the highway-only PFN, whether it should have a role in 
prioritizing needs or justifying investment, and why it did not give 
full consideration to first or last mile segments. According to the 
NFAC, the lack of goals impedes the ability to have a national 
investment strategy.
    When highway-only PFN goals are established, the NFAC believes 
flexible investment strategies should be afforded to the States and 
private railroads should retain their autonomy to manage their 
infrastructure. They called on Congress in the next reauthorization to 
provide for a comprehensive data program and for access to private 
sector data and other sources to support freight planning. They cited 
the value of State Freight Plans and State Freight Advisory Committees 
in informing national planning and sought to make these mandatory. 
There was strong support for local and State leadership in designating 
urban freight networks. They called on DOT to consider and incorporate 
future trends in goods movement, and to re-designate or modify more 
frequently than the 10-year cycle. The NFAC urged the creation of 
dedicated funding from additional revenue sources to support both 
planning and to incentivize investment in projects.
    The NFAC further recommended that DOT consider where freight should 
be encouraged to move as opposed to only reflecting current movements. 
The Committee requested the location of structurally deficient bridges 
or ``freight restricted bridges'' be considered for the highway-only 
PFN. They also submitted the following list of routes they felt was 
missing from the highway-only PFN:
     Primary high-traffic connectors between freight terminals 
and Interstate highways;
     Intermodal connectors, connections to logistics centers 
and manufacturing centers (freight origin and destination points);
     Highway segments that provide unique through-routes for 
53-foot national standard tractor-trailers;
     Metropolitan components and urban connectors;
     Critical highways based on where activity is happening, 
not just those on the Interstate system (non-Interstate networks);
     Farm-to-market routes;
     International gateways such as highway border crossings, 
airports, seaports, Great Lakes ports and river terminals that provide 
significant freight movement; and
     Interstate crossings connecting urban areas with national 
manufacturers and distribution centers in different states.

Highway-Only PFN Data and Methodology

    Section 167(c) of title 23, U.S.C., directed 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

[[Page 64489]]

transportation system. Consistent with the national freight policy in 
MAP-21, DOT's goal was to designate a highway-only PFN that would 
improve system performance, maximize freight efficiency, and be 
effectively integrated with the entire freight transportation system, 
including non-highway modes of freight transport. The FHWA explored the 
development of a NFN to provide connectivity between and throughout the 
three elements that comprise the NFN (highway-only PFN, remainder of 
the Interstate System, and CRFC).

Data Used for the Designation of the Highway-Only Primary Freight 

    In undertaking the highway-only PFN designation, FHWA developed 
multiple scenarios to identify a network that represents the most 
critical highway portions of the United States freight system. The 
highway-only PFN was informed by measurable and objective national 
data. In performing the analysis that led to the development of the 
highway-only PFN, FHWA considered the following criteria and data 
sources, which are further described at the listed Web locations:

           Factor                  Data source           Parameters
Origins/ destinations of      FAF 3.4 http://       Connect top origins/
 freight.                      faf.ornl.gov/fafweb/  destinations.
Freight tonnage and value by  FAF 3.4 http://       Include top routes
 highways.                     faf.ornl.gov/fafweb/  by weight of
                               Extraction0.aspx.     freight
                                                    Include top routes
                                                     by value of
Percentage of AADTT on        HPMS 2010 AADTT       Include top routes
 principal arterials.          http://               by percentage of
                               www.fhwa.dot.gov/     AADTT on principal
                               policyinformation/    arterials.
AADTT on principal arterials  HPMS 2010 AADTT       Include top routes
                               http://               by AADTT on
                               www.fhwa.dot.gov/     principal
                               policyinformation/    arterials.
Land and maritime ports of    USACE U.S. Army       Connect top seaports
 entry.                        Corps, Navigation     and river terminals
                               Data Center,          ranked by weight
                               special request,      and values.
                               October 2012 via
                              MARAD http://         Connect top seaports
                               www.marad.dot.gov/    and river terminals
                               documents/            ranked by number of
                               Container_by_US_Cus   20-foot equivalent
                               toms_Ports.xls.       unit containers
                              BTS Transborder data  Connect top land
                               http://www.bts.gov/   ports for both
                               programs/             weight and values.
Access to energy              EIA (U.S. Energy      Include access to
 exploration, development,     Information           coal basins, top
 installation or production    Administration)       coal mines, coalbed
 areas.                        http://www.eia.gov/   methane fields,
                               pub/oil_gas/          natural gas
                               natural_gas/          production
                               analysis_publicatio   locations, gas and
                               ns/maps/              oil exploration
                               maps.htm#geodata.     areas.
                              Pennwell Mapsearch    Include access to
                               data via Pipeline     oil refineries and
                               and Hazardous         distribution
                               Materials Safety      centers.
                               (PHMSA) http://www.mapsearch.com.
                              Pennwell Mapsearch    Include access to
                               data via Pipeline     pipeline terminal
                               and Hazardous         locations.
                               Materials Safety
                               (PHMSA) http://www.mapsearch.com.
                              Pennwell Mapsearch    Include access to
                               data via Pipeline     biodiesel and
                               and Hazardous         ethanol plants.
                               Materials Safety
                               (PHMSA) http://www.mapsearch.com.
Population centers..........  2010 Census http://   Connect top
                               www.census.gov/       urbanized areas;
                               cgibin/geo/           Utilize Census
                               shapefiles2010/main.  Urbanized Area
                                                     Boundary for
                                                     geographic areas.
Network connectivity........  FAF 3.4 http://       Reduce gaps by
                               faf.ornl.gov/fafweb/  connecting highway-
                               Extraction0.aspx.     only PFN segments
                                                     to each other or to
                                                     the Interstate
                                                     System, or begin/
                                                     end at access

Methodology Used for the Designation of the Highway-Only Primary 
Freight Network

    The FHWA developed the following methodology with the intention of 
generating a network that could include as many of the MAP-21 criteria 
as practicable. The FHWA undertook extensive research and numerous 
approaches to better understand and model the criteria. This research 
informed our finding that compliance with the mileage cap yields a 
network that does not sufficiently accommodate the full set of 
criteria. In order to comply with the mileage cap while still 
accommodating the statutory criteria, FHWA developed a methodology that 
prioritized the application of the criteria and set thresholds within 
the data sets. The FHWA used the following methodology to develop the 
highway-only PFN:
    (1) Used the FAF and HPMS data sets to generate the top 20,000 
miles of road segments that qualified in at least two of the following 
four factors: Value of freight moved by highway; tonnage of freight 
moved by highway; AADTT on principal arterials; and percentage of AADTT 
in the annual average daily traffic on principal arterials.
    (2) Analyzed the segments identified in Step 1 and gaps between 
segments for network connectivity. Created the network by connecting 
segments if the gap between segments was equal to or less than 440 
miles (440 miles being the distance a truck could reasonably travel in 
1 day). Eliminated a segment if it was less than one-tenth of the 
length of the nearest qualifying segment on the highway-only PFN.
    (3) Identified land ports of entry with truck traffic higher than 
75,000 trucks per year. Connected these land ports of entry to the 
network created in Steps 1 and 2.
    (4) Identified the NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors within urban 
areas with a population of 200,000 or more.\3\ The NHS Freight 
Intermodal Connectors included any connectors categorized as connecting 
to a freight rail terminal, port, river terminal, or pipeline. In 
addition, these NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors included routes to 
the top 50 airports by landed weight of all cargo operations 
(representing 89 percent of the landed weight of all cargo operations 
in the U.S.). Connected the NHS Freight Intermodal Connectors back to 
the network created in Steps 1 and 2 along the route with the highest 
AADTT using HPMS data.

    \3\ The Census defined urban areas (UZAs) were used rather than 
the adjusted UZAs since these were not available at the time of the 

    (5) Identified road segments within urban areas with a population 

[[Page 64490]]

200,000 or more that have an AADTT of 8,500 trucks/day or more.\4\ 
Connected segments 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-only PFN. Removed segments not 
meeting this rule as they were more likely to represent discrete local 
truck movement unrelated to the national system.

    \4\ Ibid.

    (6) Analyzed the network to determine the relationship to 
population centers, origins and destinations, ports, river terminals, 
airports, and rail yards and added minor network connectivity 
    (7) Analyzed the road systems in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico 
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 
and added roads connecting key seaports to population centers.
    (8) Analyzed the network 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, 
FHWA did not presume a truck freight correlation.
    (9) Steps 1 through 8 resulted in a network of 41,518 centerline 
miles, including 37,436 centerline miles of Interstate and 4,082 
centerline miles of non-Interstate roads.\5\ In order to obtain the 
27,000 centerline miles, FHWA identified those segments with the 
highest AADTT. These road segments represented on the final highway-
only PFN map comprise 26,966 miles of centerline roads.

    \5\ Readers 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 plus/minus 1-2% 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 iterations.

Final Highway-Only Primary Freight Network Map

    The FHWA has posted the details of the final initial highway-only 
PFN, including the 26,966-mile highway-only PFN map, State maps, and 
lists of designated routes and tables of mileage by State at: http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/nfn/index.htm.
    This final highway-only PFN, which is unchanged from the draft 
released in November 2013, attempts to reflect the many criteria 
established in MAP-21 while also complying with the mileage cap. As a 
result, the highway-only PFN results in an unconnected network with 
major gaps in the system, including components of the global and 
domestic supply chains. Therefore, DOT is concurrently and 
simultaneously developing an MFN as part of the National Freight 
Strategic Plan that better represents the complex multimodal freight 
system in the U.S. and has proposed the GROW AMERICA legislation that 
is responsive to the many public comments outlined in this notice.

    Authority: 23 U.S.C. 167; 49 CFR 1.85.

    Issued on: October 15, 2015.
Gregory G. Nadeau,
FHWA Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2015-27036 Filed 10-22-15; 8:45 am]