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freight-plan-bannerMassDOT, in conjunction with Massport, is taking steps to increase investment in the freight system in Massachusetts and to engage stakeholders on how cargo moves through the state and what the Commonwealth should be doing to plan for the needs of freight in the future.

A draft Massachusetts Freight Plan is now posted online and includes a comprehensive list of strategies the Commonwealth may adopt in order to ensure that the $500 billion multimodal freight transportation system remains safe, reliable, sustainable, and economically productive over the long term.  MassDOT invites the public to provide feedback on the plan during the 30-day comment period, which is scheduled to close on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.

In addition, MassDOT and Massport are applying for Federal “Infrastructure for Rebuilding America” (INFRA) funding for capital projects to upgrade the freight corridor and a shipping berth in South Boston, to improve the I-495 corridor area and to upgrade the capacity of the Massachusetts portion of the New England Central rail line.

“Freight transportation is vital in keeping Massachusetts competitive economically with domestic and international trade partners,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “We must make wise and strategic decisions to improve the infrastructure of freight corridors and to collaborate with stakeholders so our policy decisions will support this important sector of the Massachusetts economy.”

The draft Massachusetts Freight Plan establishes the rationale for specific improvements to freight locations.  It also proposes increasing the number of truck parking and servicing areas, promoting workforce development for freight professions, protecting freight facilities from climate change, integrating supply chain data, and encouraging use of underutilized ports and airports for cargo transportation, with freight infrastructure investments specified for fiscal years 2018 through 2022.  As per MassDOT’s emphasis on customer service, the Plan was developed through collaboration with an advisory committee comprised of both freight industry members and local and regional leaders; public input was welcomed at workshops distributed among different regions of the Commonwealth, and MassDOT also consulted subject matter experts.

Public comment will be accepted on the draft plan through December 6, 2017, and the draft is fully accessible as per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The last Massachusetts Freight Plan, which was released in 2010, recommended improvements to Worcester’s Franklin Street Terminal, establishment of the Industrial Rail Access Program, the dredging of Boston Harbor, and improvements in freight rail lines’ clearances and weight limits, all initiatives which have been completed or are underway.  These investments will be substantial contributions to Massachusetts’ improved freight system.

MassDOT and Massport hope to continue to increase investments in freight corridor improvements by seeking funding from the INFRA Grant Program.  Three applications have been filed:

  1. Massport is requesting $63.33 million in INFRA grant funding to complete the Revitalize New England’s Maritime Gateway Project, $57.93 million, (of the $170.21million total cost), for the design and construction of Berth 10 and the GateVision operating system, and $5.40 million, (of the total $15.1 million total cost), for the design and construction of the Cypher-E Freight Corridor.  Conley Terminal is the heart of Boston’s working port that is home to 7,000 jobs, is Boston’s 6th largest employer, and generates $4.6 billion annually in economic impact.  Twelve of the world’s top 15 shipping lines call the Port of Boston versus five lines just four years ago.
  1. MassDOT is requesting $33 million in funding from the INFRA Grant program to complete the I-495 Corridor Improvement Program.  The network of projects involves the redesign and construction of two major interchanges and associated mainline improvements on I-495.  The INFRA funds would supplement $269 million programmed already by MassDOT for the interchange project.  In particular, the INFRA money, if received by MassDOT, would allow MassDOT to incorporate the I-495/Route 9 interchange into the work already being done on the I-495/I-90 interchange project. Because these two interchanges are less than two miles apart, their ability to individually process traffic affects their ability to function jointly as part of the network.
  1. MassDOT is also requesting INFRA Grant funding to upgrade more than 31 miles of rail and twenty bridge structures on the route of the New England Central Railroad, a regional rail corridor running from Connecticut to Canada that serves several significant employers in Massachusetts. This will allow shippers and receivers to “max out” the carrying capacity of each rail car and thereby make rail shipping more cost-effective.  The work in Massachusetts is necessary to close the last “gap” in the 286 thousand pound rail network that is being built in Vermont and Connecticut and allow for significant growth in freight shipments.

The Baker-Polito Administration understands how important it is for Massachusetts to have a modern and efficient road and rail network for the transportation of freight, appreciates input from the public on the draft Freight Plan, and is grateful for the opportunity that USDOT offers through the INFRA program to seek additional money for important infrastructure needs.

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