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As the nation's freight hub, metropolitan Chicago has significant economic opportunities and responsibilities. Simply put, our region is the preeminent freight hub in North America. A quarter of all freight in the nation originates, terminates, or passes through metropolitan Chicago, which is home to six of the seven Class I railroads, seven interstate highways, one of the world's busiest airports, and the only connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems.

Freight Updates

All Updates  

August 21, 2015  

Air Freight Activity in the Chicago Metropolitan Region

This Policy Update looks at the current trends and challenges facing air freight and planned improvements meant to increase freight capacity at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Read More About Air Freight Activity in the Chicago Metropolitan Region
June 26, 2015  

Senate transportation bill establishes new freight program

A Policy Update highlights the freight provisions in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee text for the proposed DRIVE act, a six-year transportation reauthorization bill. Read More About Senate transportation bill establishes new freight program
June 10, 2015  

Joseph C. Szabo tapped to be next CMAP executive director

New executive director has varied experience in local, state, federal governments, civic affairs, and transportation. Read More About Joseph C. Szabo tapped to be next CMAP executive director
June 4, 2015  

Leveraging the Region’s Freight Assets and Addressing its Challenges

CMAP's regional economic indicators microsite features key measures of metropolitan Chicago's economy and, where applicable, compares these measures to peer metropolitan areas.  The... Read More About Leveraging the Region’s Freight Assets and Addressing its Challenges
May 12, 2015  

Infrastructure Week 2015

May 11-15, 2015, marks the third annual Infrastructure Week , which features events and advocates from across business, labor, and public policy highlighting the importance of infrastructure... Read More About Infrastructure Week 2015
May 5, 2015  

2016 joint call for planning projects

CMAP, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), and the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) released a call for local projects across metropolitan Chicago through the RTA ... Read More About 2016 joint call for planning projects
April 27, 2015  

Illinois Department of Transportation announces infrastructure tour

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has announced an infrastructure listening tour to "start a statewide conversation that lays the groundwork for a realistic, sustainable plan... Read More About Illinois Department of Transportation announces infrastructure tour
April 7, 2015  

U.S. Department of Transportation announces TIGER grant funding

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) announced that $500 million will be made available through the seventh round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic... Read More About U.S. Department of Transportation announces TIGER grant funding
February 20, 2015  

CREATE Program Status Check

New Policy Update provides background information on the CREATE program, including its project portfolio, implementation status, and performance impacts. Read More About CREATE Program Status Check
February 20, 2015  

Rail Crossing Delays in Metropolitan Chicago

The region's dense rail network plays a key role in moving both goods and passengers, but imposes costs on local communities. A New Policy Update focuses on rail crossing delays. Read More About Rail Crossing Delays in Metropolitan Chicago
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Related Activities

Regional Freight Leadership Task Force. CMAP is convening a regional task force to explore institutional and funding barriers affecting the freight system in northeastern Illinois. The Regional Freight Leadership Task Force will meet from October 2013 through May 2014 before producing a final report to the CMAP Board in June 2014. 

Freight Cluster Reports.  This infrastructure and volume of goods movement supports many jobs in the region, not only in transportation-related industries, but also in other industries such as manufacturing that directly rely on goods movement. Together, the larger freight cluster accounts for one in four jobs in the region.  Released in July 2012, CMAP's Freight Cluster Drill-Down report identifies key infrastructure, workforce, and innovation challenges and opportunities influencing future cluster growth and concludes with a set of regional strategies to better align resources and investments with the needs of the freight cluster.  In August 2013, CMAP published a follow-up report on the Freight-Manufacturing Nexus that examines how, due to the size and strength of metropolitan Chicago's freight cluster, the region is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the recent resurgence in U.S. manufacturing.

Freight Data and Resources.   CMAP maintains a collection of multimodal freight data and analysis for northeastern Illinois, including metrics of performance, volume, facility inventory, and more.

Freight Resources

GO TO 2040. The comprehensive plan's Regional Mobility chapter recommends that the region should create a more efficient freight system.  

Community Railroad Resources.  CMAP has collected useful information about the rail system in our communities, including issues of local safety and maintenance.

Visualizations Explore the Metropolitan Chicago Transportation Network. Interactive mobility visualizations allow users to explore data on metropolitan Chicago's transportation system, including road, transit, and freight networks, which drive our regional economy. 

More About Freight

Freight has long been central to the development of metropolitan Chicago. Businesses have long utilized the region's transportation infrastructure as an economic advantage, first capitalizing on the region's geographic position at the nexus of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems, then its unmatched connections between eastern and western railroads, and more recently its extensive highway network and global air connections.

Today the region is the preeminent transportation and logistics hub in North America. A quarter of all freight in the nation originates, terminates, or passes through metropolitan Chicago. The region's concentration in intermodal moves—i.e., freight shipped in a standardized container easily transferred between modes—is even more striking. About half of all intermodal movements in the country touch the Chicago metropolitan area. Indeed, metropolitan Chicago's intermodal facilities vie with Los Angeles as the largest container handler in the entire Western Hemisphere.

Metropolitan Chicago's impressive transportation performance helps to drive the regional economy. The freight industry directly employs truckers, rail workers, terminal workers, logistics providers, and others. Together, these interrelated industries account for 200,000 jobs and provide over $13 billion in personal income for the residents of northeastern Illinois. A greater proportion of metropolitan Chicago's employment falls in these freight industries compared to the national rate, and this specialization has grown over the past decade.

Freight supports jobs not only in transportation and logistics but also in freight-dependent industries such as manufacturing and wholesale trade. Indeed, one-quarter of all jobs in the regional economy are in industries directly tied to freight. These freight-dependent industries add over $115 billion to the regional economy each year.

The region must address serious funding and governance issues if it is to maintain the vitality of its freight system. The Chicago area is routinely listed as having some of the worst highway congestion in the nation, costing billions of dollars annually in terms of wasted time and fuel. Furthermore, the region's rail system is beset by congestion, with numerous heavily-used freight lines crossing each other at grade and being used for commuter and intercity passenger services. Significant investments will be needed to bring the freight system to a state of good repair, as well as expand capacity to meet current and future demand. However, traditional revenue sources to support public investments in transportation have failed to keep pace with needs.

Northeastern Illinois contains seven counties, 284 municipalities, and 123 townships. Those general purpose units of government, along with the state, have jurisdiction over the highway network. Through that authority, they regulate truck routes, parking, and delivery restrictions, determine size and weight restrictions, and impose fees. Further, they zone to control and regulate land uses. While these decisions may reflect local preferences, they do not always aggregate to a coherent whole, and the multiplicity of local regulations imposes a burden on the freight system.


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