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This Policy Memorandum was Canceled June 23, 1999.

FHWA Policy Memorandums - Office of Environment and Planning

ACTION: Guidelines for Identifying
National Highway System Connections
to Major Intermodal Terminals

Date: April 14, 1995
Associate Administrator for Program Development HEP-12
Regional Administrators

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance for use by the States and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) in identifying National Highway System (NHS) connections to major intermodal terminals. Copies should be made available to the divisions, State transportation agencies, MPOs and any other organizations, agencies, groups, and operators of intermodal terminals with an interest in this process.

When the proposed NHS was submitted to Congress in December 1993, we acknowledged that more work was needed on the identification of connections to major intermodal terminals. The attached guidance is intended to complete this important aspect of the proposed system.

In developing the proposed system during 1992 and 1993, nearly total flexibility was provided in identifying connections to intermodal terminals. This approach produced inconsistent results and insufficient coverage of intermodal terminals . The guidance provided with this memorandum is designed to achieve greater consistency in identifying connections to major intermodal terminals.

Before developing the guidelines, we consulted with representatives from a number of organizations and agencies, including the American Trucking Associations, AASHTO, the American Association of Port Authorities, Greyhound Lines, Inc., Amtrak, the American Public Transit Association, and the Intermodal Association of North America, as well as with representatives from the other modal administrations, to obtain their views on possible criteria for use in this effort. Based on these meetings and working with information provided by the States in response to our November 8, 1994, memorandum, we concluded that a criteria-based approach, described fully in theattached guidance, should be used for this effort. We believe this approach will produce consistency in results at the National level while providing sufficient flexibility to accommodate differing State characteristics, plans and investment strategies.

Consistent with the provisions of Section 1006 of the ISTEA, the identification of NHS connections to major intermodal terminals should be accomplished by the States in cooperation with the MPOs. While it is appropriate and indeed necessary for the States to take the lead in this effort, the work must be accomplished in cooperation with the MPOs and in consultation with other appropriate public and private sector organizations and agencies such as transit operators, intercity bus operators, terminal operators, and transportation carriers and shippers.

Statewide Planning Division staff is available to conduct workshops in each region to explain the guidelines and to address any State-specific issues. Funds are included in your travel budgets under Washington Office directed travel for this purpose. More specifics on the workshops, including points of contact to schedule a workshop, are included in the guidelines.

Policy questions related to this memorandum and the attached guidelines should be directed to Mr. George Schoener, Chief, Statewide Planning Division on (202) 366-4067 or to Mr. Thomas Weeks on (202) 366-5002. Technical questions should be directed to Mr. Robert Gorman (202) 366-5001 or to Mr. Lee Chimini on (202) 366-4068, respectively.

/s/ Thomas J. Ptak

3 Attachments

Attachment 1



In developing the proposed NHS, the States were instructed to identify connections to major intermodal terminals; however, the FHWA instructions allowed the States to decide which intermodal terminals were considered major and how such terminals should be connected to the NHS. This effort was completed before mostStates and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) had developed their transportation plans and intermodal management systems. As a result, there was considerable variation in NHS connections to intermodal terminals among the States. When the proposed NHS was submitted to Congress, the FHWA acknowledged that further work was needed to refine the NHS connections to major intermodal terminals.

Before asking the States/MPOs to refine the connections, the FHWA decided that guidelines were needed to help determine which intermodal terminals warrant an NHS connection and how these facilities should be connected to the system.

To assist in the development of guidelines, the FHWA asked the States/MPOs to submit lists of intermodal terminals and the level of activity (volume of freight and passengers) generated by each. This information was used to gain some idea of how to classify or group the terminals. Suggestions were also solicited on what criteria should be considered for use in identifying major intermodal terminals.

The FHWA staff also met with representatives from the other modal administrations within the DOT (Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Maritime Administration (MARAD), Federal Rail Administration (FRA), Research and Special Projects Administration (RSPA) and the OST Office of Intermodalism to solicit their ideas on criteria. In addition, a concerted effort was made to obtain the views of public and private sector organizations and associations representing various transportation agencies and intermodal facility owners, operators and users. These included: the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), Amtrak, Greyhound Lines, Inc., the American Public Transit Association (APTA), and the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).

Using information obtained from the States and the input from the outreach described above, draft guidelines were developed and provided to a small work group consisting of representatives from five State DOTs, an MPO and a transit operator. The work group met in Washington, D.C., on March 23, and provided comments and recommendations on the guidelines.

Scope of Guidelines and Criteria

The following guidelines are provided to assist the State transportation agencies and the MPOs in identifying NHS connections to major intermodal terminals. As used in these guidelines, Intermodal terminals are defined as facilities which provide for the transfer of freight or passengers from one mode to another. The identification of a facility as a major intermodal terminal for this purpose does not make that facility eligible for NHS funds. Only the designated NHS connection(s) to the facility will be eligible. The NHS connections to major intermodal terminals will be included on maps depicting systems. The resulting mileage will also be counted as a part of the NHS. NHS connections to major terminals must be public roads under the jurisdiction of and maintained by a public authority. NHS funds may not be used for improving privately owned roads.

The objective of this effort is to identify principal highway links between major intermodal terminals and other NHS routes. For example, a port or a rail head may function as a gateway for goods leaving and entering the country or a region. Where a large volume of goods will be transported by highway, it is critical to the efficient operation of the facility that it have adequate access to the NHS. In this case, the principal route(s) would be identified as the NHS connection to the major intermodal terminal.

Some roads serving intermodal terminals may perform collection and distribution functions. For example, commodities might be transported to/from the facility by truck on a number of collector routes, or passengers might arrive from several different directions. These collector/distributor routes should not be considered as connections to the NHS. If more than one route provides access to the terminal, then the route selected should be the one with the most traffic (providing the following criteria contained in this guidance are met). Multiple routes should only be considered where each route meets the appropriate criteria.

Primary and secondary criteria are provided below for identifying NHS connections to major intermodal terminals. The primary criteria are based on annual passenger volumes or annual freight volumes or daily vehicular traffic on one or more principal routes that serve the facility. (If data are not available for applying these criteria, the FHWA recommends that special traffic counts be undertaken at those facilities which may meet the criteria to determine more precisely whether they warrant a direct NHS connection. The traffic data should represent an average working day.) The secondary criteria include factors which underscore the importance of an intermodal facility within a specific State.

In arriving at the passenger volume criteria, the FHWA concluded that different passenger volumes should be applied to commercial aviation airports than for Amtrak stations and intercity bus terminals. The passenger volume criterion for airports has been established at 250,000 annual enplanements; the criteria for Amtrak stations and intercity bus terminals has been established at 100,000 annual boardings and deboardings. Even though the criterion is higher, commercial aviation airports with 250,000 annual enplanements handle nearly 96 percent of total enplanements at all commercial aviation airports. NHS connections to these major airports will serve a significant share of total passenger volumes. The FHWA intends, however, to apply the criterion for commercial aviation airports in a somewhat liberal sense, particularly in States which may not have any airports that meet the criterion and in States which may have only one airport that meets the criterion. States may identify connections to airports with 100,000 to 250,000 annual enplanements where the significance of these airports is reflected in State airport and aviation plans and increased service levels are anticipated.

Primary Criteria

The FHWA expects that NHS connections will be identified for all intermodal terminals that meet the primary criteria unless justification is provided for not identifying a connection.

Commercial aviation airports:





Intercity bus:

Public transit:


Secondary Criteria

NHS connections proposed for intermodal terminals based on the secondary criteria must be justified in the State's submission. The justification should be based on the significance of the facility to the State and/or plans that a State or MPO has for improving the access and developing the facility.

Proximate Connections

Intermodal terminals identified under the secondary criteria may not have sufficient traffic volume to justify a direct connection. States and MPOs should fully consider whether a direct connection should be identified for such terminals, or whether being in the proximity (2 to 3 miles) of a NHS route is sufficient.

Role of the States, MPOs and Others

Section 1006 of the ISTEA provides that "the States, in cooperation with local and regional officials, shall propose to the Secretary arterials and highways for designation to the National Highway System..." This section further states that "in urbanized areas, the local officials shall act through the metropolitan planning organizations designated for such areas under section 134..." Consistent with Section 1006, the States are expected to take the lead in identifying the NHS connections to major intermodal terminals in cooperation with the MPOs and other local officials as appropriate. The FHWA also expects the States and MPOs to consult with other organizations and agencies, such as transit operators, terminal operators, intercity bus operators, etc., as appropriate, in completing this activity. Each State's submission to FHWA must include evidence of cooperation with the MPOs in identifying the NHS connections to major intermodal terminals.


All maps and supporting information specified in these guidelines must be submitted to the appropriate FHWA division office not later than September 15, 1995. Earlier submissions are requested.


Statewide Planning Division staff is available to conduct regional workshops on request. The purpose of the workshops is to explain the guidelines, answer questions related to their implementation, and to address any State-specific issues that may arise. The workshops are expected to last 4 to 8 hours. The target audience for the workshops are region and division staff, State representatives who will be responsible for completing the work in each State, and MPO representatives from the largest metropolitan areas (1 million population and greater). Attendance by representatives from all MPOs is not considered necessary. The FTA Regional offices should be notified by the appropriate FHWA field office if a workshop is scheduled and be given an opportunity to attend. Attendance by terminal operators is not considered necessary; however, the States and MPOs will be expected to involve appropriate operators in identifying NHS connections to the major terminals identified in each State. Workshops may be scheduled by contacting Mr. Robert Gorman at (202) 366-5001.

Future System Revisions

The FHWA anticipates that the NHS, including the connections to major intermodal terminals, will need further adjustments to accommodate economic growth and other changes. After the NHS is approved by Congress, the FHWA will establish policies and procedures, consistent with authorizing legislation, for administering future changes to the system.

Attachment 2


Listing of Terminals

A listing of NHS connections is requested. The listing should include the following information:

  1. Name or description of the major intermodal terminal
  2. Name, number, etc., of the connecting route
  3. The termini of the connecting route
  4. The mileage of the connecting route
  5. The specific primary or secondary criteria which support the inclusion of the connecting route and the activity level associated with the terminal [e.g., airport - primary (375,000 enplanements); port - primary (2,750,000 tons of cargo by highway); Amtrak - secondary (86,000 boardings & deboardings which represent 26 percent of State total; etc.]

Map Requirements

The NHS connections to major terminals identified through the above process will be included on the official GIS based national, State and urbanized area maps. The Statewide Planning Division will use information provided by the State transportation agencies and the MPOs to identify the location of the intermodal facilities being served and the specific connection(s) to the facilities. Map requirements to support this effort are described below. Questions concerning these requirements should be directed to Aung Gye at (202) 366-2167 (Fax (202) 493-2198).

  1. The location of each major intermodal facility as determined by these guidelines and the NHS connection(s) to the major terminal will be shown on a map or maps with a minimum locational accuracy of 1:100,000. These maps shall show 1) the specific location of each major intermodal facility, as defined by bounding streets or highways, and 2) the complete NHS connection to the major terminal. All bounding streets and connections shall be identified with route numbers and street names. In cases where intermodal facilities can not be located by a single point, appropriate text describing the nature and location of the intermodal facility shall be provided, with the listing of terminals. A map showing the boundaries of the facility or boundaries of the components of the facility should also be provided.

  2. Larger scale maps shall be provided in all cases where the maps provided under item 1 are inadequate to illustrate the specific locations of the major intermodal facilities, including bounding roadways, and the geometry of the connections. These maps shall be of sufficient area to include the major intermodal terminal location, bounding roadways, and the complete NHS connection(s).

  3. Identification of major intermodal terminals on maps: Please mark the type and location of each major intermodal terminal using the appropriate symbol from the listing below. The locations will be digitized by the FHWA for placement on the national, State and urbanized area NHS maps as appropriate.

    Major Intermodal Facility Symbol
    Airports A
    Port Terminal P
    Truck/rail Facility R
      Amtrak Station
    Intercity Bus Terminal B
    Public Transit Station PT
    Truck/pipeline terminal L
    Ferry F

  4. NHS Connection(s) to major intermodal terminals: Please show the NHS connections to major intermodal terminals in brown. If the connection is not already a part of the FHWA National Highway Planning Network, Version 2.0, it will be digitized from the most detailed map provided.

  5. This effort may result in the deletion of NHS connections to intermodal terminals that were previously identified in developing the proposed NHS. In such cases, the routes proposed for deletion should be clearly described and marked for deletion with a red X.

Attachment 3


Rationale for Volume Criteria


Based on guidelines in the Intermodal Management System Course, a terminal with 50,000 TEUs annually might generate 182 truck trips per day or 52 one-way trips per peak hour per peak day once allowances are made for rail/highway mode split, conversion of TEUs to truck units, percent loaded, auxiliary truck trips, etc.

Ports handling 500,000 tons of cargo per year would handle 2,000 tons per day based on 250 working days, and this might equate to 100 trucks in each direction if the payload of each truck averaged 20 tons.

The threshold for airports was established at 100,000 tons per year because of high cargo value and because of airports generate more truck trips per ton.


Using data submitted by the States, such as listings of intermodal terminals ranked by the number of passengers handled, the FHWA developed criteria for classifying or categorizing groups of terminals for each mode. A threshold of 250,000 enplanements was selected for commercial aviation airports. Nationally, 36 percent of commercial aviation airports meet this threshold but these airports handle over 96 percent of total enplaned passengers. Moreover, airports with more than 250,000 enplanements handle the majority of each State's air passenger activity. All but four States have airports that qualify under this criterion.

A threshold of 100,000 passengers was selected for intercity bus and Amtrak because a very small number of terminals handle a major share of total passengers for those modes. This threshold also represented a logical point that separated one group of facilities from the next group and a point where identifying a principal access route may be warranted.

Public transit terminals were evaluated from a similar perspective. The thresholds that were established, i.e., terminals with parking facilities for more than 500 vehicles or terminals with a 5,000 bus or rail passengers arriving by bus or cars, also represent a point where identifying a principal access route may be warranted.

Ferries are divided into two categories: local and interstate/international. Local ferries are part of an area's public transit system and should be treated in the same manner. Interstate/international passengers represent much longer trips that have some of the same characteristics as trips on the NHS.

Public versus Private Terminals

During the development of the guidelines, a great deal of consideration was given to whether NHS connections should be limited to public terminals. Terminals can generally be grouped into three broad categories: 1) public-use terminals that are open to all carriers, 2) private terminals that serve public passengers, and 3) strictly private terminals which are only served by carriers owned and operated by the companies that own the terminals. After careful deliberation, the FHWA has chosen not to limit NHS connections to public-use terminals; but urges the States and MPOs to carefully consider the possible implications of including connections to strictly private intermodal terminals.

Truck Terminals

Another question that emerged during the development of the guidelines was whether NHS connections should be identified for privately-owned truck terminals and warehouse distribution centers, or other significant truck traffic generators. After careful deliberation, a decision was reached to exclude these facilities because many are not intermodal (transfer between modes) and because the number of potential terminals in this category are virtually unlimited.

This Policy Memorandum was Canceled June 23, 1999.

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