Today, a guest post by Daniel Kuhn, UDOT Railroad and Freight Planner.
Interstate Highway 80 is one of the most strategic and important of all freight highways in North America.
While most motorists know I-80 as the main route between New York City metro area and San Francisco via the Chicago area, Omaha, and Salt Lake City, to the trucking industry I-80 is a network of routes. All along its transcontinental route, I-80 has a variety of connecting roads that feed long-distance freight to and from the main highway. Here in Utah we are at the junction of two of the I-80 Network’s most important and busiest freight feeders, I-15 from southern California and I-84 from the Pacific Northwest. Northern Utah is literally the hub of the I-80 Network for freight.
Thousands of trucks use I-80 and its feeder network every day, carrying a myriad of products to and from destinations all over North America. Canadian trucks are a daily sight all along I-80 in the west, with many connecting to I-15 in Salt Lake City. Of all the freight carried on the I-80 Network, the movement of perishable freight, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, in refrigerated (“Reefer”) trucks is by far the most time-sensitive.
During harvest season here in the west, which usually runs from June through October, reefer trucks account for around 30 to 40% of total truck traffic along the I-80 Network, approaching 50% east of Utah on I-80 itself. A combination of factors, including regional geography, the undertaking of large water projects and agricultural developments across the west in the early 20th century, and advances in mobile climate control systems for semi trailers has led to Utah being the crossroads of perishable freight movement in the western United States. As a result of our crossroads status, a number of refrigerated trucking companies, including the nation’s largest, C.R. England, Inc., are headquartered in the Salt Lake Valley at the hub of the I-80 Network.
The majority of perishable freight passing through Utah is grown in California’s fertile Central Valley, which produces almost 25% of all the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States. These time-sensitive products travel to Utah via I-15 or I-80, using I-80 and to a lesser extent I-70 beyond the Beehive State. As a result, Utah’s Primary Freight Routes, including several that are a part of the I-80 Network, are a strategic part of America’s, and Canada’s food transportation system.
Trucking moves what America consumes, and UDOT’s highway system plays a vital role in making the American lifestyle possible for many in the USA. The I-80 Network serves as the vital backbone of routes which move freight to, from and through Utah en route all across America and to much of Canada as well.