Freight Transportation Framework Study

Freight Focus Area

Focus areas were identified and evaluated in order to gauge the potential of each location as a future freight activity center.  The initial range of focus areas were identified through regional commodity flow analysis and planning partner input, then evaluated, scored, and ranked based on supportive technical criteria.  The focus areas were then considered within the context of freight typologies and assigned a type.  Freight typologies were determined based on labor force characteristics, geographic location, land composition, and commercial and industrial market projections to further determine the type and level of support appropriate for each unique focus area.

Although all of the 16 focus areas have displayed some amount of favorable characteristics and potential as part of the regional freight system throughout previous analyses, the four areas illustrated in Figure 1-1 have been selected as the initial locations to be subjected to further analysis: Tucson International Airport, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, Eloy (I-8 & I-10), and West Valley.  These four analysis zones were not selected based on initial screening performance alone.  The zone’s overall rating, industrial and commercial market potential, freight typology characteristics, as well as major transportation and location assets were all considerations weighed in the selection process.  These four zones were also selected to be representative of each of the typologies described previously.  Furthermore the selection of these four areas should not be interpreted as diminishing the relevance of the remaining 12 focus areas for development in accordance with the identified typology as part of the regional freight system.  The section below describes the four selected analysis zones in further detail. 

Figure 1-1 Four Focus Areas

Within this supply chain process exists many opportunities for the Sun Corridor to enhance this regions role allowing underutilized lands to benefit from economic development.  While the region can leverage the entire supply chain, especially by developing facilities throughout the Sun Corridor in a rational and coordinated manner, research from this study has shown that a substantial benefit can be realized through growing distribution and manufacturing operations in particular.  To guide the development of these operations, facility typologies have been defined for various distribution and manufacturing operations.

The purposes of the typologies are to: understand how different operations can contribute to a broader Sun Corridor freight system; help determine the development type for particular sites; and to understand the requirements of each typology to integrate improvements into local public agency plans and polices.


Facility Typologies and Location Principles

Based on the land use context, market opportunities, and supply chain dynamics in the Sun Corridor, typologies have been developed for freight-related facility development. Four principal typologies for supply chain facilities have been defined and are described below in terms of function and distinguishing principles relevant to the region.  These typologies represent development options that could be appropriate for sites along the Sun Corridor.  While the four typologies can exist solely and independently within a region, they are not mutually exclusive within the supply chain.  To be most successful in attaining a more prominent role in the global supply chain, the Sun Corridor must plan and act regionally to provide all of the typologies in a comprehensive and coordinated manner, although development of specific locations may occur incrementally over time.  Furthermore, the typologies have characteristics in common, but differ in the weight of these characteristics based on the primary function of the particular location.  For example, any facility distributing goods will offer service to the local market, but one type of facility emphasizes this function and calls for sites that help optimize it while other may treat local distribution as a secondary or ancillary function.  The four typologies relevant to freight facilities in the Sun Corridor are listed as follows, along with a description of key location principles

Import Center: As products enter the country, an import center stages them for inland distribution.  Possible functions of an import center include redirection of goods to the precise markets currently demanding them; combining goods from multiple sources into load sets for individual stores and customers (referred to as deconsolidation and consolidation); changing modes (e.g., to transfer goods from rail to truck, or to expedite a shipment through forwarding it by air); and processing goods via packaging, labeling, or more complex preparation. 

Manufacturing and Local Distribution Center: Sun Corridor manufacturing can capitalize on at least three assets: the natural environment (for example attracting solar energy development); the industrial environment (for example exploiting economies of agglomeration in the aerospace, automotive or biomedical sectors); and proximity to the international border with Mexico (for example adopting interactive production on the maquiladora model that now extends deeper into Mexico).  Local distribution typically accompanies manufacturing when there is an anchor market providing local demand (for instance, in food and beverage production), but the Sun Corridor has become such a large consumer market that locally focused distribution may make sense by itself in some business and retail sectors.  Facility functions are production, storage, and direct distribution (with little intermediate staging in the local area).

Mixing Center: Products traveling from sources all over the country and world may be staged for destination markets in a mixing center, which combines the characteristics of an import center with forward distribution.  The essential functions of a mixing center are redirection, deconsolidation and consolidation, and modal change, along with processing and storage. 

Forward Distribution Center: As products travel across the country, a forward distribution center assembles goods from many long distance origins and local manufacturing and warehousing facilities, and stages them for delivery to major destination markets within reach of the center.  Deconsolidation and consolidation are the key facility functions, but others include mode change (such as rail to truck), redirection, processing, and storage.