Toledo’s public and private freight stakeholders identified the economic potential of improving freight performance in their region. Their work ultimately led to public and private investments in the rail network around Airline Junction Intermodal Yard, which allowed the facility to quickly double annual lifts and provide further economic development opportunities for the region.
This case study is unique in that the initiative was not a response to a specific freight issue. Instead, the region proactively formed a freight quality partnership that went through a DM process similar to the one described in this Guide to select an initiative (upgraded infrastructure) to improve the overall freight performance in their region. The impetus for action was to support and strengthen the entire local freight system as a means of economic expansion, rather than to address specific system issues.
Located in Northwest Ohio, the Toledo region is situated roughly between the Detroit, Michigan, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, metropolitan areas. By itself, the Toledo metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is home to 651,429 people, and it is the 81st largest MSA in the United States. There are eight neighboring MSAs within 100 miles, however. This larger area, which local experts call “Lake Erie West,” is home to over 6.2 million people. If Lake Erie West were a state, it would be the 18th largest, with a combined GDP of $281 billion (see Table 61).
It is important to note that these figures do not include Ontario, Canada, which falls within the 100-mile radius of Toledo, Ohio. Strong bi-national manufacturing and supply chain relationships account for a significant volume of the goods moving within and through the region. Given the multijurisdictional nature of freight, this larger area is more telling of the region’s potential as a freight center.
Lake Erie West Demographics
The Toledo region serves as a major freight junction for highway, rail, and maritime freight. Located on the southwest corner of Lake Erie, it serves as a hub for freight moving east-west from New York State to Chicago, Illinois, and for traffic moving north-south from Detroit, Michigan, and Canada to the states of Texas and Florida. Similarly, the Port of Toledo is the westernmost port on Lake Erie. The port’s location, effectively at the end of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, coupled with its connections to both north-south and east-west land-based freight modes, resulted in it becoming the second largest on the Great Lakes.