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Freight Economy

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FHWA's Roundtable on the Freight Economy: Denver, Colorado

Date: April 4, 2016

Our Host: Denver Chamber of Commerce

Key Regional Transportation Facilities and Freight Hubs

HIGHWAYSI-25, I-70, I-76 and US 287; portions of US-85, US-6, US-36, and E-470; Major regional arterials: South Santa Fe Drive and SH-119
RAILROADSUnion Pacific, BNSF, Great Western and Denver Rock Island Railroad
AIRPORTSDenver International Airport
PIPLINEConoco and Kanab Pipeline

Freight Facilities

Source: DRCOG

Stakeholders Represented by the Following:

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

Top 5 Commodities by Value 2045

Commodity Value (millions $) % of total
Electronics 52,556 13%
Coal-n.e.c. 47,483 11%
Mixed freight 38,469 9%
Precision instruments 36,427 9%
Pharmaceuticals 28,300 7%
All commodities 414,439 100%

Top 5 Commodities by Weight 2045

Commodity Tons (thousands) % of total
Natural gas (Coal-n.e.c.) 151,764 43%
Gravel 47,166 13%
Natural sands 23,555 7%
Nonmetal min. prods. 18,206 5%
Mixed freight 10,663 3%
All commodities 354,256 100%

Trading Partners 2045

Outbound by Weight of Shipment
(thousand tons)

Trade partner Tonnage % of total
Colorado 40,284 26%
Wyoming 36,182 24%
Nebraska 25,581 17%
New Mexico 11,655 8%
Oklahoma 7,919 5%
Total outbound 153,587 100%

Inbound by Weight of Shipment
(thousand tons)

Trade partner Tonnage % of total
Colorado 28,144 29%
Nebraska 19,734 21%
Wyoming 18,179 19%
California 3,173 3%
Canada 2,908 3%
Total inbound 95,922 100%

Based on FAF4.1 data with base year 2012 and forecasts up to 2045

Modal Freight Share by Tonnage, 2012 and 2045

International freight in the Denver region is projected to grow rapidly by 2045—more than quadrupling by value.

Currently, Denver’s major trading partner by both value (nearly 1/5th) and tonnage (nearly 1/3rd) is the rest of Colorado.

The Denver region will see multimodal freight activity grow by nearly 75% in tonnage terms and expand over two times in value between 2012 and 2045.

The majority of the Denver region’s freight activity is domestic (93% by value and 98% by tonnage).

Nine major industry clusters drive the Denver regional economy: aerospace; aviation; beverage production; bioscience; energy; financial services; broadcasting/telecommun- ications; healthcare/ wellness; and IT/software, with specific needs and requirements for freight activity.

Denver International Airport (DIA) is the major air cargo facility in the area, with nearly 4% of all modal activity by value. DIA houses World Port Cargo Support, DHL, UPS, FedEx, and United Airlines cargo. More than 50 freight forwarders and customs brokers operate within 20 miles of DIA.

The most significant freight bottlenecks in the Denver area are: the I-25 and I-76 interchange; the I-25 and I-70 interchange, and the I-25 and I-225 interchange. In 2012, the estimated cost of congestion delay was more than $1 million a day to commercial vehicles and businesses in the region.

The region added 124k jobs between 2005 and 2013, growing at the rate of 10%, while the population grew by 8% during the same period.

By 2045, trade with the rest of Colorado and nearby states will continue to be key while the relative value of trade levels with European countries will increase.

Rail carries approximately 9% by tonnage of total freight activity in Denver, with the Class I railroads UP and BNSF operating in the region.

Sources for Freight Facts: FAF, DRCOG, BTS, ATRI and Colorado DOT

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Page last modified on August 29, 2017
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