While providing broad economic benefits, freight activity can have adverse impacts on communities. Truck and rail traffic can cause noise, congestion, air quality, and other negative impacts. Trucks cause heavy wear and tear on locally maintained roads, and at-grade rail crossings can cause delays for motorists as well as difficulty in routing emergency services. Residents may face safety concerns as truck traffic grows in areas that were not designed for heavy vehicles, and these vehicles can bring noise and pollution, as well. Communities in fast-developing areas are facing change that can negatively affect quality of life, or represent a transition from rural to urban. Many freight and industrial facilities also generate low returns from the property taxes and other fees that municipalities can enact, creating a gap between the cost to provide supportive infrastructure or services and the revenues generated. This can create a lag between infrastructure needs and local investment that would direct and improve truck movement and reduce negative impacts on adjacent communities. These cumulative factors often make freight a locally unwanted land use. The recommendation to Target Infill, Infrastructure, and Natural Area Investment in the Community Chapter offers more strategies for protecting agricultural lands as well as for fiscally and environmentally sustainable development and expansion.

The negative impacts of freight activities are of particular concern in economically disconnected areas (EDAs), which have large concentrations in major freight activity centers such as the O’Hare area, the South and West sides of Chicago, the south Cook suburbs, and the Joliet area in Will County. The close correspondence of freight activity centers and EDAs is perhaps unsurprising, but nonetheless highlights the disproportionate location of noxious land uses in low-income communities of color. Freight-adjacent areas often have lower residential property values, which in turn are more affordable to low-income populations. There are many potential environmental justice concerns related to goods movement. In practice, responding to these concerns should be a project- and community-specific effort that actively engages residents and responds to local needs.

Action 1

Continue to identify and provide solutions for mitigating the negative impacts of freight on adjacent development.


CMAP and partners

Action 2

Balance quality of life concerns with economic impacts when investing in freight development and infrastructure.


CMAP, roadway agencies, local governments, and other partners

Action 3

Consider additional outreach, analysis, and mitigation activities for freight-related improvements in EDAs.


Transportation implementers

Action 4

Prioritize projects that improve quality of life, such as reducing truck bottlenecks and separating at-grade rail crossings that cause high levels of delay.


CMAP, IDOT, the tollway, and other transportation agencies

Action 5

Give additional weight in the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, Transportation Alternatives Program, and Surface Transportation Program programs to road and rail projects that address freight-related environmental justice issues.



Action 6

Continue to seek the most comprehensive air quality data available, perhaps based on observed or modeled asthma rates or other indicators of respiratory distress, for use in making transportation investment decisions.


CMAP and transportation funders