Freight is a critical component of the economy in northeastern Illinois and generates significant demand on the region’s highway network. Freight development tends to co-locate, so understanding the relationship between these clusters and areas of truck congestion can help prioritize both transportation investments and local land use decisions to support freight movement while ensuring strong quality of life for residents.

Layers Toggle on and off to explore
  • Truck bottlenecks toggle map layer
  • Greater O'Hare Freight Cluster toggle map layer
  • Core Midway Freight Cluster toggle map layer
  • North Chicagoland Freight Cluster toggle map layer
  • South Cook Freight Cluster toggle map layer
  • Will County Freight Cluster toggle map layer
  • Fox River Valley Freight Cluster toggle map layer

Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan

In contrast to older, established freight clusters in the region, Will County is an emerging freight center with a relatively new and comparatively large industrial facilities. The area has a strong specialization in modern distribution facilities and is home to several large and growing intermodal terminals. Notable truck bottlenecks in the cluster include portions of IL-53, Weber Rd., US-6, and I-55.

Maintaining the region’s status as North America’s freight hub requires investing strategically in the freight network. In light of the rapid growth of freight movement in the area, Will County and the Will County Center for Economic Development joined other stakeholders to prepare the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan. The plan uses a wide range of analytical tools – including freight corridor, bottleneck, and congestion analysis – and identifies key freight related projects for future investment. In particular, it focuses on reducing the local impacts of quickly increasing truck traffic, balancing economic and quality of life needs.


O’Hare Subregion truck Routing and Infrastructure Plan

The Greater O’Hare cluster is the largest and densest freight cluster in metropolitan Chicago. It has a heavy concentration of warehouse uses, a very high density of truck routes, and easy access to O’Hare International Airport, the region’s largest air cargo facility. This cluster contains 22 percent of the region’s freight and manufacturing employment. A number of significant truck bottlenecks cross the cluster, including portions of I-90, I-294, Irving Park Rd., Busse Rd., Mannheim Rd., and North Ave.

Maintaining the region’s status as North America’s freight hub requires focusing on improving local and regional truck travel. In order to improve truck travel in the O’Hare subregion, 11 communities in the area collaborated through CMAP’s Local Technical Assistance Program to develop a coordinated truck routing network. They worked across jurisdictions to create consistent truck routes, limiting truck traffic in residential and sensitive areas while still providing connected and consistent routes.

Improving truck access to the Illinois International Port District

South Cook is the least-dense freight cluster in the region and features relatively high vacancy rates paired with small parcels and old buildings, potentially making redevelopment of existing industrial land a challenge. It does, however, have access to an extensive network of rail and truck infrastructure, as well as much of the region’s water cargo system. A number of the truck bottlenecks in the cluster are near the area’s water freight facilities. I-90, 103rd St., Torrence Ave., and I-94 near the Illinois International Port District (IIPD) experience significant congestion, in part a result of the significant intermodal freight movement that occurs in the region.

Maintaining the region’s status as North America’s freight hub requires investing strategically in the freight network. An IIPD project near two truck bottlenecks in 2017 received funds from Cook County’s Invest in Cook program. A preliminary engineering grant for the reconstruction of Butler Drive will eliminate degraded pavement and dirt sections of the road, improving safety for trucks accessing numerous bulk material suppliers and logistics firms operating in the port. Maintaining our region’s freight hub status also requires mitigating the negative impacts of freight on adjacent areas, particularly economically disconnected areas. CMAP is creating a planning priorities report IIPD – which is an economically disconnected area – to identify opportunities to advance the interests of both IIPD and the surrounding area.

Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network

The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network (CFBN) is a new initiative to address the needs of the region’s longstanding industry cluster of food manufacturers and packagers. Such cluster initiatives can generate economic activity that both decreases inequality and boosts the region’s productivity and competitiveness. Launched in 2017, CFBN offers a range of consulting, financial, innovation, workforce training, and other activities that reflect the industry cluster’s rapidly changing markets. Recent trends are heightening the need for companies to work together on shared opportunities in ways that complement their competitive interests. Food industries have shifted substantially in recent years amid evolving consumer tastes, technology and regulatory requirements, and skilled workforce needs. CFBN brings together disparate private and public resources to address these common concerns jointly. For example, CFBN has begun building a food manufacturing training institute based on an industry-driven curriculum and partnership with regional training providers.



CFBN’s mission aims to align industry growth with inclusive improvements to regional employment, entrepreneurship, and neighborhood revitalization. The advantages of local roots and opportunities for inclusive growth are integral to the food cluster’s business case. Food manufacturing and processing industries have a high share of small and medium-sized businesses based in neighborhoods with smaller-scale industrial lands and access to the region’s transportation system. Facilities have often operated on Chicago’s South and West Sides or in nearby suburbs for decades. At the same time, over half of food manufacturing jobs require little more than a high school diploma, and entry-level jobs have clear career pathways to well-paying, supervisory roles without much additional education.

Metropolitan Chicago also has the resources and talent — as a food innovation community — to expose diverse residents to successful entrepreneurs and to help food startups to thrive. CFBN helps to connect new entrepreneurs with distribution and marketing opportunities, as well as mentorship from bigger food companies. Alongside corporate giants like Kraft-Heinz, Mondelez, ConAgra, and McDonald’s, metropolitan Chicago has played host to food start-ups like Laine’s Bake Shop, TeaSquares, RXBar, and Tiesta Tea.

Beach Park, Winthrop Harbor, and Zion


In 2016, three communities in northeastern Lake County — Beach Park, Winthrop Harbor, and Zion — signed an intergovernmental agreement to collaborate on mutual economic development initiatives. The partnership pursues commercial and housing reinvestment across municipal borders in an effort to attract new businesses and residents to the sub-region as a whole. The three communities share economic development costs like hiring an economic development and recruitment firm, as well as the local sales tax revenue of new developments. Proactive, non-compete strategies help to maximize the impact of their limited public resources and to market the communities jointly as a unified market area. After years of struggling to attract development, local leaders sought to create a stronger and more competitive lakefront sub-region where communities are co-dependent for their economic success. Read more about the agreement in an ON TO 2050 profile of Beach Park Village Manager Jon Kindseth.


Local planning efforts supported by CMAP have emphasized both the importance of such cooperation and the need to view local development in the context of larger sub-regional and regional markets. Particularly in smaller market areas, competition among neighboring municipalities can result in public expenditures for limited economic gain and in some cases fiscal impacts surrounding communities. Retailers and other local developments can capitalize on competing incentives while accessing the same customer base, infrastructure, labor pool, and other assets that drive their profitability. Alternatively, local communities can improve outcomes, expand resources, and lower costs by cooperating on economic development activities.