Last week, the US Department of Transportation released their 30-year freight projections. The release, detailed below, estimates that the amount of freight moving on our nation's transportation network will increase 40 percent over the next 30 years.
In 2015, the US DOT estimated that more than 18 billion tons of freight moved over our roads, bridges, airport runways, rivers, and rail lines.
18 billion tons is a lot. But that number is small in comparison to the 2045 projection of 25 billion tons of freight per year.
That's 69 million tons of freight moving on our transportation network PER DAY.
When we talk about freight here in Kentucky - we're talking about all the automobiles, aerospace, agricultural, aggregates, and other products we we manufacture that need to get to the open marketplace.
We're also talking about all the products our communities and citizens need to import like clothes, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, food products and electrical devices. Things that we may not manufacture or grow here that we need or want to make our lives better.
To understand the impact this increase in freight will have on you, think about your daily commute.
You may pass some semi-trucks, cross a rail line, or even see a barge moving freight on the river.
Over the next 40 years, you will notice an increase in the number of trucks you see on the road. You'll notice that the number and length of trains at your local rail crossing will increase. You may notice that the airplanes that are used to move freight are increasing in size and in number. If you live near the river, you'll notice more and more barge tows moving freight.
Can your local infrastructure handle that increase? Will your roads and bridges hold the increasing number of trucks? Will those same roads and bridges be safe for you and your car? Will your regional airport runway be able to support larger airplanes that take off and land at more frequent rates? How long will it take you to cross the rail line in your neighborhood when there are longer, more frequent trains?
The challenge we face is that we will have to move more and more freight on a transportation network that already needs major improvements and enhancements.
But we're lucky - we have the benefit of knowing that this increase is coming over the next 40 years.
We have time to make the needed improvements and enhancements to our entire transportation network so that our children - and our children's children - don't suffer because we didn't act when we could. We can start building the infrastructure we know we'll need for tomorrow today.
Doing so will help Kentucky move ahead in the future - and keep us from falling behind.
We have to think big - 69 million tons per day big - so we can move Kentucky forward.