Appalachian Regional Commission: Network Appalachia – Freight, Trade, and Economic Development

Freight flows, international trade and logistics are critical contributors to the Appalachian Region’s economy. In this report, Cambridge Econometrics provides a fresh assessment of the freight network in Appalachia. The study uses a novel methodology to estimate the quantity and value of freight flows and commodity shipments in Appalachia using publicly available data and provides an assessment of freight employment and contribution to economic development in the Region. The study also provides detailed case studies of freight logistics facilities in Appalachia to understand how they were funded, the markets they serve, and how they support the region’s economic development.

Network Appalachia is a multimodal transportation initiative supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to open the Appalachian Region and successfully link the businesses, communities, and people of the Region to local, national, and global markets and destinations. In 2010, ARC completed a Network Appalachia study describing the intermodal freight transportation network in the Region. Over a decade later, the study and its supporting data are outdated and no longer represent the ever-changing Region. This updated report provides key insights into the freight trends, challenges, and opportunities facing the Region today.

What we did:

  • Identified and mapped key freight facilities and networks in Appalachia to understand the existing intermodal infrastructure, connections and network gaps
  • Reviewed state and regional freight plans to understand trends in freight and global trade issues, investment and the priorities relevant to the Region
  • Estimated freight flows to, from, and within the Region and subregions using a novel approach that takes advantage of free, publicly available datasets
  • Summarized trends in employment and wages in freight industries in Appalachia to demonstrate which sectors or areas in the Region have high concentrations of freight activity
  • Researched and provided lessons learned at five freight logistics facilities in the Appalachian Region through detailed case studies
  • Outlined potential next steps for stakeholder engagement and continued research to expand and sustain freight activity in Appalachia

Key findings:

  • About 730 million tons of freight worth approximately $990 billion was shipped inbound to Appalachia in 2019. Overall, the Appalachian Region had a slight net inflow of goods (about 6 million more tons and $66 billion more value imported into the region than was shipped outbound).
  • Gravel and coal are the largest freight commodities in the Appalachian Region in terms of weight, while top commodities by value are an entirely different set of goods, led by motorized vehicles ($242 billion) and mixed freight ($215 billion).
  • In each year between 2017 and 2019, over 2 billion tons of freight worth about $2.3 trillion moved to, from, or within Appalachia.
  • The North subregion of Appalachia (which includes portions of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio) had the most freight flows, both in terms of tonnage (about 690 million tons) and value (about $800 billion).
  • About 270,000 Appalachians were employed in freight industries in 2021, led by the truck transportation and warehousing and storage sectors. Appalachia has a relatively high concentration of freight jobs compared to the US average.
  • Employment in freight industries has grown faster than overall employment in Appalachia and the rest of the country. This result is driven by the warehousing and storage sector, which saw employment triple between 2001 and 2021.
  • Case studies of five Appalachian freight facilities (including inland ports, commercial airports, freight railroads and inland waterways) revealed the importance of partnering with freight carriers, supporting the local economy, and leveraging existing assets and infrastructure.
Dan Hodge Executive Vice President [email protected]