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Study says more trucks bound for Franklin County

April 21, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Approximately 60,000 trucks pass through Franklin County each day, a figure that could exceed 100,000 by 2030, an increase that will require counties in southcentral Pennsylvania to develop a strategy to accommodate that growth.

Each day, about 3,000 trucks leave Franklin County carrying products from warehouses, factories and other businesses, while another 3,000 come in to deliver goods, according to 2003 data collected for a South Central Pennsylvania Regional Goods Movement Study funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

However, another 52,000 long-haul trucks travel the county's major highways on the way to other destinations, placing a burden on the highway system, according to David T. Hunt of Cambridge Systematics, a New Jersey transportation consulting firm. While the study indicates the "in and out" traffic will increase to about 8,000 trucks a day by 2030, the number of "pass through" trucks will be an estimated 96,000, Hunt told a group of local government officials and businessmen Thursday at the county's Administrative Annex.

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One of the driving factors for that growth in the eight-county region is warehousing and industrial space. There was 186 million square feet of space at the end of 2005, an increase of 16 percent from the second quarter of 2004, Hunt said. By contrast, New Jersey, with nearly 800 million square feet of warehouse space, grew less than 1 percent during that period, he said.

Franklin County has about 10.6 million square feet of industrial and warehouse space, he said.

While truck traffic will increase by 77 percent by 2030, the figures showed rail traffic will increase 43 percent during that time.

"If you invest in your rail network, you can start to divert truck traffic off the road," Hunt said.

The study, which he said will be completed this summer, indicates serious traffic bottlenecks will occur along Interstate 81 at Exit 20 with Pa. 997 in Scotland, Pa.; Exit 5 with Pa. 16 in Greencastle, Pa.; and Exit 24 at Pa. 696 in Shippensburg, Pa. The data also suggests that Marion, Pa., at Exit 10 and Shippensburg are prime areas for growth in the warehousing industry.

The county's most pressing transportation need is widening Interstate 81 to three lanes in each direction, said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

Ross's second priority is another exit south of Exit 14 in Chambersburg. The CSX railroad owns 115 acres off Kriner Road, where it plans to build a facility where truck trailers are loaded and off-loaded from trains, he said.

There is already substantial traffic because of the Target, Kmart, Staples and other distribution centers in that area and the CSX project would add more traffic than the exit at Wayne Avenue can handle, Ross said.

The intersection of U.S. 11 and Pa. 997 also needs major improvements to accommodate growth at Letterkenny Army Depot and the Cumberland Valley Business Park, a proposed high school and planned residential development, Ross said.

To plan for transportation improvements, Hunt recommended the creation of a "continuing freight forum with all eight counties and the private sector" participating. The region needs to plan transportation improvements to handle increased traffic, preserve the quality of life and support the economy.

One impediment to growth is a labor shortage in the trucking industry and the region, Hunt said. One trucking company is targeting ex-military personnel, AARP members and Latinos to help fill a nationwide driver shortage, although the latter group "presents some immigration issues," he said.

"They're desperate for drivers," Hunt said.

There is also a shortage of labor to fill warehousing jobs, he said.

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