South Alabama Freight Forum (SAFF)
Recently, the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission housed a freight forum which consisted of staff of local governments, and individuals that are involved in the freight community in South Alabama. The idea of the forum is to find out the problems in the freight community, and develop solutions. There is A LOT going on in Mobile right now with the channel to be dredged, Walmart, Airbus, Austal, and it all leads to trucks, and more trucks; they are the backbone of this country.
The forum was also an opportunity to inform the freight community about various surface infrastructure projects like Water Street, McDonald Road Extension, and the I-10 Mobile River Bridge. That agenda item actually seemed to have the most interest from the freight community; what projects are going to be done, and when.
In our efforts to update the freight element of the Long Range Transportation Plan, we have developed a freight survey to be shared with the freight community. The results and data from this survey, will compliment data we purchased from INRIX, and the APM Terminal Survey, to give a snap shot of where trucks are coming from and going to. In the travel demand modeling world, this is an important piece of information.
SAFF SURVEY RESULTS
Interstates are the most preferred routes, as it is less congested and it is easily accessible to the ports. This is followed by US Routes; US 43, US 98 and US 45. Even though these are the preferred routes, they have also been identified as having chokepoints along them. Throughout I-10, three chokepoints have been identified at the intersections of I-65, SR181, and all along the Bayway beginning at the tunnels. There were complaints that US 43 gets congested because of the low speed limits, despite it being a four lane divided highway. Rail crossings along the route were also pointed out as being a source of congestion. US 98 near the Mississippi state line was recognized as in need of additional lanes to no longer classify as an area of congestion. Aside from the preferred, the intersection of Springhill and Mobile Street was identified as a chokepoint.
Inquiries included on how the Bayway tolling and Water Street improvements would impact businesses. Some surveyors replied that neither should impact their operations. Most replied that it would increase costs and delays, and some said they would pass the costs to manufactures. There were concerns that the Water Street improvements may restrict access to the ship yards, further impacting operations.
Surveyors rated the area routes as a whole and also commented what Law Enforcement Officers (LEO)s could do to help improve it. Access management and road conditions were rated mostly as neutral but leaning slightly unfavorable. LEOs were highly suggested to enforce texting and driving in the left lane, to reduce distracted drivers and make thru traffic more fluid.