Chester County Freight Plan

Chester County Freight Plan

The Chester County Freight Plan grows out of the Chester County Planning Commission’s Landscapes3 Comprehensive Plan, which outlines a clear vision for the future of Chester County framed around six goal areas: Preserve, Protect, Appreciate, Live, Prosper, and Connect. This freight plan seeks to advance objectives within the Prosper and Connect goal areas of Landscapes3.

The Chester County Freight Plan was conducted in two phases. Phase I of the plan focused on establishing a county freight profile by defining key freight industries, infrastructure, activity, and trends in the county. This phase also included community and industry outreach to identify top locations and issues of concern. Phase II of the plan involved the development of a Freight Action Plan to address these issues centered around six goals: Safety; Efficiency; Preservation and Identity; Environment; Economic Development; and Community and Place.

County Freight Profile Overview

Chester County has an extensive network of freight infrastructure that carries goods to, from, and through the county. This network connects the county to regional, national, and global markets with one Class 1 rail carrier, three shortline railroads, three intermodal terminals, 26 miles of interstate highway, 220 National Highway System (NHS) miles, and 600 miles of pipeline.

Freight-intensive industries and establishments that utilize this infrastructure were identified and include businesses in the Agriculture, Construction, Manufacturing, Mining/Quarrying, Transportation, Utilities, and Wholesale Trade sectors. These industries are major generators of freight activity in the county, but also represent significant employers and revenue generators. 

Two prominent freight-intensive industries had been previous identified in The Chester County Ecomony report as critical to the county based on their relative strength, high profile for the business community and public, their importance for economic development, and their historic significance. These were the Agriculture and Manufacturing industries. In the county, there are many agricultural and manufacturing businesses and a strong presence of industries that support these sectors as well. Both of these sectors generate a variety of different vehicles that can be found on county roadways ranging from tractors, to bulk tankers and refrigerated trucks. Both also utilize the rail network for transporting bulk supplies.

A summary of the activity of all freight-intensive businesses showed that a majority of freight moves through the county by truck, with rail being used heavily for the transport of bulk commodities to manufacturers. Heavy-duty truck trips were found to be concentrated on major roadways while medium-duty truck trips were more dispersed across the road network. All truck trips entering and leaving the county were also concentrated along major roadways. Although less prominent than truck movement, the rail network supports many industrial businesses, and there is the potential for future opportunities for industrial access to rail along the Western Octoraro Line.

Freight generating businesses have formed clusters of industrial development across the county. DVRPC has identified Freight Centers across the region that are focal points of the freight economy and employment.  Seven of these centers are located in Chester County. These Freight Centers are intended as a planning tool to better understand the priorities, challenges, and opportunities created by these important regional centers.

While these freight centers all continue to be active freight-generators, development trends show that most of the freight centers have not seen significant new development in the last 10 years. The exceptions are the Downingtown Freight Center, the Oxford Freight Center, and the Chester County Airport Freight Center which have all experienced some infill development. Construction of new industrial structures is shifting away from traditional centers of freight generation, and flex properties are growing in frequency of construction as the county continues to see increasing demand for industrial, and specifically warehouse, space. This trend is likely due to the increased demand for e-commerce goods and the warehouses required to deliver products quickly to population centers.

Freight Input and Needs Identification

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) solicited input about freight activity in Chester County and the concerns of those who drive, bike, or walk and share the roadway with trucks or trains. Using an interactive web map, issues and comments were collected from November 2021 through January 2022. This input will be critical for establishing priorities and developing strategies to address freight activity in the county as a part of this plan. Thank you to those who helped to identify concerns to inform the development of a Freight Action Plan for Chester County.

Freight Action Plan Overview

Freight planning and investment are critical to meet the development and economic growth that the county is experiencing and to mitigate the impacts of changing land use and freight activity. The freight action plan established goals and strategies for comprehensively considering freight and directly support the clear vision established by the Chester County Planning Commission’s Landscapes3 Comprehensive Plan. These goals are the following:

  • Support and implement freight safety improvements and initiatives;
  • Increase efficiency of goods movement and maintain reliable mobility for trucks;
  • Promote education about freight that supports vital industries and county identify, and support industrial redevelopment opportunities that preserve open space;
  • Encourage new technologies that offer more sustainable options for freight transportation and freight efficiency;
  • Support industrial redevelopment opportunities and infrastructure for economic growth; and
  • Coordinate with communities to ensure mobility for freight that is consistent with local and regional priorities.

The strategies and actions put forth will build upon the existing county efforts to embrace places, enhance choices, and engage communities while continuing to balance preservation and growth. Critical action strategies for accomplishing this are the following:

  • Designate a truck network so that context- appropriate design choices can be made that protect all road users;
  • Invest in transportation infrastructure along the designated network that supports efficient goods movement;
  • Promote infill development and redevelopment that concentrates freight activity near supportive infrastructure;
  • Preserve rail access as a sustainable mode of transportation that reduces the number of trucks on the roads; and
  • Invest and prepare for alternative fuels, especially for new and redeveloped sites.

Chester County is a vibrant place to live, work, and visit, and this plan lays the foundation for a future of freight that supports economic development and enhances the quality of life for residents.

Air Quality Partnership
Annual Report
Connections 2050
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
Economic Development District