December 8, 2014

New Report Maps Freight Networks, Suggests Strategies for Transportation Infrastructure Investment

A new report from Brookings presents the findings of a study that analyzed 2010 goods trade data in order to provide policy makers with previously unavailable data that helps them understand trade networks within the United States and plan investments accordingly.

The study found that trade is highly concentrated — more than 80 percent of goods traded (valued at $16.2 trillion dollars) in the U.S. either start or end in one of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country. The report provides several interactive tools that demonstrate the connections between the cities. Looking, for example, at Hartford, it shows that the value of goods coming in and out the city is nearly $98 billion, and its largest trading partners are New York City, New Haven, Boston, and Springfield.
The analysis provided by this report is useful for many aspects of policymaking, but has specific implications for transportation planning and funding. According to the report’s press release, these findings may suggest that certain metropolitan areas and the surrounding infrastructure should get more federal money, as opposed to the even geographical distribution of federal funds that exists now. The press release also suggests that, at the local and regional level, leaders could consider planning regionally and focusing investment on certain hub in order to support the trade economy of the region as a whole.