Binational Freight Corridor Study breaks down current state of freight

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is finalizing an extensive study called the Binational Freight Corridor Study, which analyzes transportation and economic development with a supply chain approach. Presented in collaboration with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the study, showcased recently to stakeholders in Nogales, was produced to assess the freight performance of the Pacific Corridor between Mexico City and Phoenix, and forecast the future volume and value of freight that is likely to use the corridor.

Land trade between the U.S. and Mexico has seen major growth since NAFTA was implemented in the 1990s. Trucking trade is the major source of freight that moves commodities between Mexico and Arizona, then on to Canada, and is stretching beyond the border cities, moving deeper into Mexico and adding to the roster of exporters.

The Binational Freight Corridor Study provides ADOT with effective data that helps to widen the view of how to better understand manufacturing and production trends in the Phoenix-Mexico City trade corridor as well as the El Paso-Mexico City trade corridor. A major goal of the study is to outline improvement strategies focused on the efficiency of the multimodal transportation system in the Pacific Corridor.

“This study is helping us with marketing plans and looking at how we can boost more relations with producers out of places like Sinaloa and state agencies,” said Luis Ramirez, a state economist who helped bring the presentations together for the public and the stakeholders involved.

The team behind the study is assessing the performance of freight of both the Pacific and Central Corridors, stacking up inventory of freight assets and planning needs. The study looks at the best ways to identify and estimate numerous performance metrics for trucking freight, such as truck delay, average truck speed, and travel time reliability. All these are being assessed to have a better look at the best way to optimize all things that go into corridor freight travel including forecasting the future volume and value of freight and regulatory changes that can affect day-to-day operations.

Another observation among the commodities communities in Mexico, Arizona and Texas is about the effectiveness of using the Pacific Corridor that goes up through Nogales instead of shipping items through Texas, then having to backtrack west to get to stops in New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Currently, some major companies out of Mexico are heading north to McAllen or El Paso, border cities in Texas that see high numbers of freight come through, only to head all the way back west to make stops in the western U.S. An argument made by those creating the study is that choosing to go directly to Nogales instead would provide equidistance to the major freight stop supply chain in the southwestern part of the United States.

“Some preliminary findings we looked at is that our corridor is competitive with any other corridor,” Ramirez said. “There are companies shipping from central Mexico and going in to Texas, then on to the west. They’re adding several hundred miles on their trucks. And while they may get cheaper rates upfront, it also means that truck and driver are tied up for longer.”  

Researchers didn’t just let the data speak for itself. They included recommendations to maximize efficiency while also planning for growth in the freight industry. Cross-border traffic is expected to increase by 50 to 100 percent in the next 15 years so it’s important to develop a plan at all three commercial border crossings to speed up the inspection process and travel time.

Some of the suggestions in the study include building and finalizing highway bypasses along major urban areas, particularly in Hermosillo, while also expanding bridge capacity at some locations along the corridor to enhance efficiency in total time to move freight along, while also understanding the most effective ways to cut out bottlenecks along the route.

The next phase in the study is to continue to promote the analysis while marketing the data to Mexican exporters, according to Ramirez.

Nick Esquer

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