Supporting a thriving and sustainable economy

A safe, efficient, high-capacity freight transportation system is essential to the economic well-being of the region and the state. Producers and consumers of freight rely on an effective and efficient transportation system to prosper. Although regional transportation planning primarily focuses on facilities for personal travel within the region, the region’s freight system is inseparable from goods movement nationally and internationally.

Twin Cities’ freight system

As a freight hub, the Twin Cities region is at the center of many of the mobility and access issues affecting Minnesota’s freight transportation system. Because of this broad reach, the Met Council does not plan for freight within the region alone, but works closely with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and other partners to ensure that the regional freight system continues to support a thriving and sustainable economy for the region and the entire state.

The Twin Cities region is fortunate to be served by five modes of freight transportation, each with its own role in moving goods into, out of, through and within the region. Today, nearly 75% of intercity freight is moved by trucks on highways. The remaining 25% is moved by air, water, rail, and pipeline.

  • Trucks carry freight on roadways, including long-haul trucks traveling through the region, to riverports and rail yards, direct truck service to distribution facilities and freight-generating industries such as manufacturers and processing plants, as well as deliveries to businesses and consumer households.
  • Railroads move a variety of commodities, especially heavy bulk goods and containerized freight. The region’s rail lines provide important local and regional connections that serve national markets and international trade through east and west coast ports.
  • Barges provide water transportation over the inland river system and offer lower cost higher volume shipping options than other modes, which is a particular advantage for transporting bulk freight over long distances. A number of key industries rely on the affordability provided by barge freight transportation.
  • Air freight services allow regional companies to ship low-weight, high-value and time sensitive goods to cities in the U.S. and around the world.

Private entities own and operate many of these modes and freight terminal facilities. Public freight-related improvements are limited to those components of the transportation system operated and maintained by the public sector, such as highways and connecting roadways, navigable rivers, riverport terminals and airports.

Freight studies