Freight is the movement of goods into and through the state by means of roads and highways, railways, ports and waterways, and airports. Residents and businesses depend on freight transportation for nearly everything including what we eat, wear, and use. Freight movement has a huge impact on our daily lives and on the economic vitality of the state and the region. In addition to providing important materials for the production of goods in the state, this freight movement supports Rhode Island jobs.
In Rhode Island, most of the freight corridors run north to south. The main freight corridors for trucks include Interstate 95, Interstate 295, Route 4, and Route 146. The main rail freight corridor is the Amtrak Northeast Corridor. The marine shipping corridor is Narragansett Bay via the Port of Davisville within the Quonset Business Park and the Port of Providence. East-west freight corridors are primarily limited to truck freight on Interstate 195, Route 6, and Route 44. In addition, rail connects Rhode Island to the national and Canadian rail networks through interchanges in MA, CT, and NY.
Freight planning is an important and ongoing component of Rhode Island’s transportation planning processes as it impacts the economy, safety, congestion, air quality, and quality of life. Building on ongoing state efforts to generate economic development and support a competitive freight system, the Division of Planning has completed the Rhode Island Statewide Freight & Goods Movement Plan. The Plan evaluates goods movement via air, rail, truck, and marine transport.
The Rhode Island Statewide Freight & Goods Movement Plan is the culmination of extensive public outreach with key stakeholders and the collection and technical analysis of freight movement throughout the state. The Statewide Freight & Goods Movement Plan identifies measures to better coordinate and effectively utilize all of the state’s transportation resources to support the efficient movement of goods. The plan also outlines immediate and long-range strategies for multi-modal freight transportation investments through the year 2040.
Key findings of the 2016 Statewide Freight & Goods Movement Plan Report are as follows:
- The majority of freight (tonnage) is moved by truck (89%), followed by water (9%), rail (>2%), and air travel (>1%).
- The top commodities being transported in Rhode Island for all transport methods combined are petroleum refining products (31%), gravel/sand (18%), warehouse/distribution goods (14%), broken stone (13%), and waste or scrape (8%).
- The total truck tonnage is anticipated to grow at an average annual growth rate of 2.1% between 2013 and 2030. Air freight is forecast to increase 3.2% annually during the same period. Goods movement by rail and water would increase 2.9% and 0.8%, respectively, on an annual basis between 2013 and 2030.
A list of priority freight infrastructure projects was developed to guide the investment in projects that would improve the efficiency of the intermodal freight network and enhance operations. A number of these projects have already been funded or are in ongoing development. Unfunded projects are continually reassessed as part of Rhode Island’s freight planning process. More information on each freight mode and the plans recommendations for improvements is available through four fact sheets:
A Freight Working Group comprised of municipal representatives, local universities, state government officials, port officials, environmental advocacy groups, freight advocacy groups, logistics experts, and industry representatives assisted the Division of Planning in the development of the freight plan. A public meeting and open comment period complimented the committee participation process. Perspectives from both public and private stakeholders informed the Plan on challenges related to both the supply and demand for freight movements in Rhode Island.
Completion of the Freight Plan provides Rhode Island with opportunities to access additional federal transportation monies for freight-related projects, such as improvements to its highways, rail system, and ports.
The Statewide Freight & Goods Movement Plan, Executive Summary, and Appendices can be found at: