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Freight Economy

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FHWA's Roundtable on the Freight Economy: Charlotte, North Carolina

Date: March 4, 2016

Our Host: Charlotte Chamber of Commerce

Key Regional Transportation Facilities and Freight Hubs

HIGHWAYSI-77, I-485, US74
RAILROADSNorfolk Southern Railroad, CSX
AIRPORTSCharlotte Douglas International
WATERBORNEPort of Wilmington and Port of Morehead City

Freight Facilities

Map of the Charlott area showing airports, interstate, and rail lines.

Source: Centralina Council of Governments

Stakeholders Represented by the Following:

What the future of freight will look like for the region:

Top 5 Commodities by Value 2040

Commodity Value (millions $) % of total
Machinery 40,146 14%
Pharmaceuticals 33,334 12%
Textiles/leather 24,851 9%
Electronics 24,144 9%
Mixed Freight 24,018 9%
All commodities 277,190 100%

Top 5 Commodities by Weight 2040

Commodity Tons (thousands) % of total
Gravel 16,526 12%
Waste/scrap 11,479 8%
Nonmetal min. prods. 11,288 8%
Other foodstuffs 8,535 6%
Plastics/rubber 6,719 5%
All commodities 139,702 100%

Trading Partners 2040

Outbound by Weight of Shipment
(thousand tons)

Trade partner Tonnage % of total
North Carolina 13,965 31%
South Carolina 8,965 20%
Georgia 3,827 8%
Virginia 2,483 5%
Tennessee 2,191 5%
Total outbound 45,592 100%

Inbound by Weight of Shipment
(thousand tons)

Trade partner Tonnage % of total
South Carolina 11,982 21%
North Carolina 8,396 15%
West Virginia 3,700 6%
Georgia 3,595 6%
North Dakota 2,843 5%
Total inbound 57,794 100%

*2012 from FAF4, 2040 from FAF3

Modal Freight Share by Tonnage, 2012 and 2040

2012: Truck 77.0%, Rail 6.3%, Water 0.5%, Air 0.1%, Multiple mode/Mail 5.4%, Pipeline 10.6%, and Other/unknown 0.0%.  2040: Truck 84.6%, Rail 10.6%, Water 0.0%, Air 0.0%, Multiple mode/Mail 3.0%, Pipeline 0.7%, and Other/unknown 1.1%.  Freight demand expected to grow from 99 million tons (2012) to 140 million tons (2040).

The Charlotte Region will see multimodal freight activity grow by forty percent between 2012 and 2040.

The majority of Charlotte's freight activity is domestic (77% by value and 79% by tonnage). International freight will almost double by both value and tons by 2040.

Charlotte has a higher share of freight activity moving by truck (77%) as compared to the nation (70%; tonnage based). Key truck corridors are I-77 and I-85.

Charlotte's freight activity and regional freight role is closely connected to two key maritime ports - Port of Wilmington and Port of Morehead City.

The Charlotte region has seen a population boom (65% growth between 2000 and 2010) in the last decade.

The sectors of trade, transportation and utilities account for almost 20% of jobs in the Greater Charlotte region.

Local estimates project air cargo will double at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport by 2030 which has on-site air cargo facilities operated by UPS, FedEx, Emory Worldwide and DHL.

More than 100 distribution centers are located in the Charlotte region. Charlotte is also home to one of two inland freight terminals in North Carolina. The Charlotte Inland Terminal (CIT) serves the I-85 and I-77 corridors and is a 16 acre facility with space to stack 391 containers and 292 parking spaces.

Rail currently accounts for 6% of Charlotte's freight tonnage, but this share is anticipated to grow to nearly 11% by 2040. Charlotte serves as a regional rail hub for both Norfolk Southern and CSX. In January 2016, CSX announced it will spend $150 million to build an intermodal terminal in eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina is home to the fourth largest active duty population in the country and 50% of the east coast’s active duty ground combat units--Fort Bragg has the closest presence to the Charlotte region. The DOT and region are working to ensure the state's transportation infrastructure aligns with military logistics needs.

Sources for Freight Facts: FAF, Centralina COG and Charlotte MPO.

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Page last modified on October 14, 2016
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