Freight Planning

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Anything that is grown, mined or made must be moved. From your favorite Colorado craft beer, to Olathe Sweet Corn and Rocky Ford cantaloupes in grocery stores, to the Gypsum board drywall used to construct your home, to the Amazon Prime package you just ordered online – moving products and packages by truck, rail, and air is an ever-present part of our lives that is often taken for granted.

Colorado’s residents, visitors, and businesses rely on our state’s multimodal transportation systems to move products around the state and to destinations around the globe. But to keep Colorado’s economy competitive and our communities attractive, we must continue to maintain our existing freight infrastructure in good condition, while improving freight mobility through new technological approaches and innovative ideas.

This is no easy job. Colorado moves many products. According to the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) dataset, over 420 million tons of products valued at over $341 billion was moved throughout Colorado in 2016. That amounts to nearly 75 pounds for each Coloradan, every day.

As Colorado’s population and economy grows, so will demand for moving packages and products throughout the state. Planes, trains and trucks operate at airports, on railroad tracks, over state highways, and through a variety of facilities that link these modes together. Together, these transportation modes combined with the infrastructure they run on are Colorado’s multimodal freight systems. These systems deliver products, supply businesses, create jobs, and support communities across Colorado.

Annual Production of Colorado Agricultural Products

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CDOT has direct responsibility for only some of these systems — primarily the state highway system, which carries the majority of freight products in the state. Most railroad, pipeline and intermodal facilities including the trains, vans and trucks operated over them are privately owned, operated and maintained, and most airports are operated by local governments. CDOT works closely with public and private partners to ensure that these systems are coordinated and connected and helps to advance policies and projects that make these systems safer, more efficient, and more reliable.


The mission of CDOT is to provide the best multimodal transportation system for Colorado that safely and efficiently moves people, goods, and information. Ensuring the continued movement of products, packages, supplies and inventories is critical to keep Colorado’s economy moving. Yet, the freight transportation issues and needs of Colorado’s industries and residents are constantly evolving in response to global forces, national trends, and local opportunities. CDOT, together with planning partners and stakeholders, is continually looking ahead and planning to meet future needs.

CDOT plans ahead to create the best system possible with limited financial resources. Like setting a household budget, CDOT must prioritize projects that provide the greatest benefits at the lowest costs. How do we make major investment decisions when project needs far outweigh available resources? How do we prioritize between adding truck passing lanes on a mountain corridor, improving a road to a new intermodal facility, developing safe truck parking areas, or improving intermodal connectivity?

CDOT makes these decisions by approaching state and regional planning as a continuous, comprehensive, and collaborative process, while being consistent with federal and state requirements. Planning ahead enables CDOT to decide what is important, where to start, and what steps are necessary to implement improvements and achieve our strategic goals.

Goals outlined in the Colorado Freight Plan include:

  • Enhance Safety and Security for Commercial Carriers
  • Improve Mobility and Efficiency of Goods Movement
  • Maintain the System
  • Improve Economic Vitality and Industry Competitiveness
  • Improve Sustainability and Reduce Environmental Impacts

In order to achieve these goals, the freight team uses real-world insight and information to identify solutions to transportation issues and influence freight policy decisions.  Staff work closely with the Freight Advisory Council to gain a perspective from the private sector. The team also analyzes various data to provide the best freight-related information available to key decision makers, and other internal and external stakeholders.

A key activity in the Freight Program is freight planning to meet federal requirements and position CDOT to improve goods movement on the system in a focused and deliberate manner. The Colorado Freight Plan was approved by FHWA as a FAST Act compliant plan in March 2019.


The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of December 2015 replaced the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act as the overall federal surface transportation legislation. The FAST Act includes provisions for how states plan for and address multimodal freight issues. The FAST Act establishes required elements for state freight plans and mandates compliance in order for Colorado to obligate federal funds under the National Highway Freight Program (NHFP).

The Colorado Freight Plan was approved by the FHWA as a FAST Act compliant plan in March 2019. An appendix of this plan is the Freight Investment Program which highlights projects funded under the National Highway Freight Program

The Colorado Freight Plan provides short-term actions and long-term guidance for CDOT, public agency and private industry partners, and members of the Colorado Freight Advisory Council. This plan is focused on furthering market opportunities for freight-reliant businesses in Colorado by improving mobility and efficiency, by addressing critical near term needs and issues, by enhancing economic competitiveness, and by aligning resources and planning processes.

Together, agency and industry partners helped craft the strategies, critical issues, and key implementation opportunities identified. CDOT and the Freight Advisory Council appreciate the efforts of those partners who provided input and ideas that informed this planning process and guided development of this forward-looking plan.

The strength of this plan arises not from the words captured in this document, but from the direct and ongoing engagement and involvement of stakeholders who care deeply about Colorado and recognize how critical freight is to the state. These partners are committed to making it easy to do business and move goods throughout Colorado and are supportive of CDOT’s efforts to elevate freight issues and opportunities throughout the agency.

Through conversations with industry stakeholders and outreach to the public, the need for enhanced education and communications became clear. There is a perception among industry partners that the traveling public, elected officials, and decision-makers are not fully aware of how critical the freight transportation system is to Colorado's economic competitiveness and quality of life. As a result, the Colorado Delivers initiative was created.

The 2018 Colorado Freight and Passenger Rail Plan is the most recent comprehensive plan to address freight and passenger rail transportation across the state. The Colorado Freight and Passenger Rail Plan was officially adopted by the Transportation Commission on August 16, 2018. The adopted Plan was submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration which approved the Plan in December 2018. It fulfills the requirements of the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, and is an element of the Statewide Transportation Plan.

This plan continues the work and priorities established in the 2012 Colorado Rail Plan and is consistent with plan guidance issued by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The Plan also helps CDOT and our planning partners better understand the complexities of the rail systems that Colorado businesses, residents, and visitors rely on.

Colorado's freight planning efforts have led to unified messaging under the brand – Colorado Delivers. Colorado Delivers is a public education initiative promoting the importance and the positive aspects of freight – including freight’s support of Colorado’s economy and its contribution to the quality of life for Colorado citizens, businesses, and visitors. 

Purpose & Goals of Colorado Delivers:

  • Change negative perceptions of freight
  • Emphasize the connection between freight and economic vitality
  • Work with freight stakeholder to promote environmental sustainability and air quality improvement strategies
  • Promote the importance of freight movement to everyday quality of life for Coloradans

Previous promotional materials include:

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