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Existing Freight System Performance

semi-truck, delivery truck and delivery person with package in hands


freight trains on tracks with packages on platform


tugboat and barge on the water


air cargo plane with packages and crates on the runway


pipelines and oil pipeline delivery truck


Our Region’s Freight System

This section of the OKI Freight Plan is an assessment of the region’s existing multimodal freight system performance within the five key goal areas: Safety; Infrastructure Condition; Mobility and Reliability; Environmental Sustainability; and Economic Competitiveness.

By using this approach, the performance of each mode (Road, Rail, River, Runway, and Pipeline) can be evaluated to identify:

  • deficiencies that are negatively impacting one or more goal area,
  • opportunities to preserve and enhance goals that are performing well

This approach ensures continued benefit to the OKI region.

Freight datasets

Freight information from more than 75 unique datasets has been collected to provide:

  • a historical record of the region’s changing freight conditions over the past decade since completion of the 2011 OKI Regional Freight Plan,
  • a current-day snapshot of our state of freight.

The period for the data referenced ranges from 2009 to 2021, depending on dataset availability and publication cycles. In cases where data for multiple years is available, freight trends have been highlighted to show growth, declines, or stability in freight system performance over time. When feasible, freight system performance has been reported collectively at the OKI eight-county regional level and individually for each member county. All data sources and dates have been included to provide an accurate record for data comparisons and future freight planning activities.

Freight Modal Highlights


President Obama addressing crowd in front of Brent Spence Bridge

President Obama Visit to OKI Region
Source: Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI). (2011).


In 2021, the Brent Spence Bridge was ranked #2 in the list of 100 most congested truck bottlenecks in the United States. A closure of the bridge from November 11 to December 22, 2020 (41 days) impacted more than 13,000 trucks per day. Median truck trip travel time increased about 13 minutes and distance increased by more than 17.5 miles. The State of Ohio estimated that the cost of the closure to truck operations increased nearly $23.5 million and added 160-tons in emissions (HC, CO, NOx, PM2.5). (Sources: American Trucking Research Institute (ATRI). Annual List of Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks. (2022). Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). Freight Advisory Committee Meeting. (June 22, 2021).

Train engine with corn field and silos in background

Freight Train
Source: Norfolk Southern Corp. (2022).


With 479 miles of track and 1,117 grade crossings, trains — after trucks — have the greatest freight presence in the OKI region. About 137 trains travel on rail tracks in the OKI region daily with the greatest number of trains, more than 100 daily, traveling through the heart of the region along CSX’s Cincinnati Terminal Subdivision track, between Mitchell Street and Longworth Hall. Although total rail tonnage has decreased by 14 percent since 2010, the revenue generated from this same rail freight is reported to have increased by 22 percent. (Sources: Surface Transportation Board. 2021 Data sets and 2019 Carload Waybill Sample.)

Barge on the Ohio River carrying freight

Barge on the Ohio River
Source: Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (2021).


The Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky is the second busiest inland port in the U.S. with 34.5 million tons of domestic freight transported in 2020. Within the OKI region alone, there are 156.2 miles of commercially navigable riverfront, containing 105 docks within 59 commercial river terminals owned by 43 different private companies. (Sources: United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). 2020 Cargo Report. (2021). Central Ohio River Business Association (CORBA). Central Ohio River Information System (CORIS). 2022.)

Amazon, DHL Air cargo planes and ground support at CVG airport

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) soared as a cargo airport in 2021 rankings.
Source: CVG (2021).


Home to one of three DHL Express Global Super-Hubs and the first Amazon Air Hub, CVG growth is being fueled increasingly by air cargo. With a 41 percent increase, CVG was named the fastest growing airport for cargo traffic over the last decade (2008-2018). Moving more than 1.4 million tons in 2020, CVG’s status as a leading cargo airport has soared in international (#21), North American (#7), and U.S. (#6) rankings. (Sources: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). 2021. Airports Council International (ACI). 2019. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). 2021.)

Industrial pipeline safety shutdown valve control system

Industrial Pipeline Safety Shutdown Valve Control System
Source: Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (2022).


Though it is the least noticed of the freight modes, pipeline accounts for nearly twice the freight volume as rail, with more than 14 million tons moved annually. At the same time, the value of pipeline commodities is the lowest of all modes at only $2.7 billion a year. In 2020, natural gas was by far the top commodity transported in the OKI region, comprising more than 51 percent of all transmission pipeline miles. In the past decade, the region’s total miles of transmission pipeline have increased 19 percent to 1,130 miles. With 85 percent of its miles dedicated to interstate pipeline, the OKI region is playing an increasingly important role in the overall pipeline network by transporting liquids and gases between states, across the nation, and to international markets. (Sources: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA). (2020). Annual Report Mileage for Natural Gas Transmission & Gathering Systems. [Data set]. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). (2017). Freight Analysis Framework Version 5.1 (FAF 5.1). [Data set].)

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