Primary Freight Network Designation

U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
W12 – 140
Washington, DC 20590

Governors were encouraged that the 2012 surface transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), directed the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to assist states as we strategically direct resources toward the efficient movement of freight through improved system performance. A multi-modal, interconnected national freight system, rather than a Primary Freight Network limited only to roadways, should be our common national goal.

Our nation’s multi-modal transportation and related infrastructure systems support and enhance the economic growth of states and the nation. Together, transportation and infrastructure help sustain quality of life and enable the flow of interstate and international commerce that underpins the United States’ competitive position in the global economy.

States have long recognized the importance of freight movement by engaging in extensive statewide and regional transportation freight planning, working with statewide freight advisory councils and stakeholders and delivering multimodal freight transportation programs. Congress, in MAP-21, acknowledged the integral role of states by requiring the U.S. DOT to encourage each state to establish a freight advisory committee and develop a comprehensive plan for its immediate and long-term freight-related development and investment.

The designation of a Primary Freight Network was restricted in MAP-21 to 30,000 miles of existing interstate and other roadways. The National Governors Association (NGA) understands the parameters that the Federal Highway Administration is operating under and agrees with U.S. DOT that the “multitude of factors combined with the mileage cap does not yield a network that is representative of the most critical highway elements of the national freight system.” We can all agree that airports, marine ports, rail and inland waterways systems must be part of the national freight network. Each of these modes play a significant role in forming a cohesive system to move freight throughout the nation and abroad. With this in mind, governors’ urge U.S. DOT to consider the following recommendations:

  1. Provide flexibility to designate the Primary Freight Network. Each state has unique needs and governors should determine whether it is within their state’s economic, fiscal, safety and geographic interests to designate interstates, ports, railways, inland waterways and airports as part of the freight network.
  2. U.S. DOT should work with governors to develop and evaluate funding for a multi-modal National Freight Network that takes into account state’s transportation infrastructure assets and limitations as detailed in State Freight Plans.  State and local governments are the owners and operators of 97 percent of the nation’s interconnected surface transportation systems, and therefore have invaluable knowledge about movement of freight within their borders. Many states in their State Freight Plans already take a multi-modal approach to freight movement because they understand the critical importance of a seamless system.

A national commitment to freight infrastructure advances the ability of the United States to meet basic mobility and delivery needs, while providing the access and connectivity that strengthens economic competitiveness and reduces congestion.  Governors look forward to working with U.S. DOT to ensure a well-functioning national freight system that provides for the efficient movement of goods no matter the mode of transportation.


Governor Robert Bentley
Chair, Economic Development and Commerce Committee

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
Vice Chair, Economic Development and Commerce Committee