The power to regulate land uses-except where limited by federal law-is primarily a power "reserved" for the states under the United States Constitution. Most states have delegated this power to local municipalities and counties under the planning and zoning enabling laws enacted by state legislatures. Most issues about future land uses that affect the present or future viability of freight facilities arise from, or come to a head, in the context of zoning or development site plan approvals.

However, in many cases, incompatible land uses already exist close to freight operations and conflict already exists. In these cases, at least in the short run, measures such as design standards and mitigation approaches are a means to minimize conflicts.

Freight Compatible Development is proposed as an ideal or guiding principle for land use planning and development. It is designed to reduce impacts that occur because of the proximity of incompatible land uses to freight corridors and facilities. The two main goals of Freight Compatible Development are to: (1) ensure that freight operations are not affected by, or do not affect, other land uses that are placed close to the freight corridor or facility; and (2) reduce and minimize community impacts that arise because of the proximity of sensitive land uses, including residential, schools, hospitals and emergency services.

Four major tools are available—either individually or in combination—to achieve the goals of Freight Compatible Development. These are:

  1. Long-Range Planning
  2. Zoning and Design
  3. Mitigation
  4. Education and Outreach.

Table 1 lists some of the specific freight corridor and facility preservation and protection strategies under the four major tools that can be utilized to achieve better Freight Compatible Development. Table 1 is not an exhaustive list that covers every possible scenario. Rather, it is designed to provide examples of tools, policies and strategies that have been found to be effective in particular contexts.

Table 1. Freight Corridor and Facility Protection and Preservation Strategies

Long-Range Planning

Zoning and Design


Education and Outreach

State Enabling Acts

Regional Visioning

Comprehensive Plans

Freight Facility Inventories

Official Maps

Purchase and Advance Acquisition

Land Swaps

Protective Condemnation

Permit Development

Access Rights

Zoning Standards

Buffer Areas

Overlay Districts

Lot Orientation

Property Design

Construction Standards

Sound Proofing Standards

Buffer Areas

Noise and Vibration Treatment

Track Treatment

Yard Realignment

Grade Crossing Management

Port Gate Management

Environmental Measures

Zoning Measures

Public Outreach and Education


Informal Negotiations

Public Involvement

Multi-Jurisdictional Agreements

Public Outreach and Education

Stakeholder Roundtables and Freight/Community Committees

All of the tools described on can be utilized by different stakeholders (for example, various levels of government and government agencies, community interests, freight groups, developers) as they plan to prevent, consider and, in some-instances, deal with conflicts that arise because of proximity of incompatible types of land uses near freight facilities. For example:

For planners and elected officials the website has been designed to help to:

  • Understand how freight fits into the local, national and global economy
  • Understand the issues that arise from conflicts and how these impact freight operations and a community
  • Begin to consider the kinds of tools, scenarios, communication, and educational outreach that they might want use to improve their freight planning and preservation capacity (Local jurisdictions will need to ensure that any processes or procedures that they create are consistent with state and federal law.)

For developers, the goal is to ensure that they consider how freight activities may affect and intersect with residential and other sensitive types of land use they may be planning. With a better understanding of these components, developers should be able to choose appropriate sites, and design and incorporate construction and mitigation components to reduce conflicts that may arise.

For freight entities, the goal of this website is to provide informational items that they can use as they interact with a community. Ideally, the freight group will provide the website link to any community that wanted:

  • More information regarding freight’s importance
  • Learn about the main issues surrounding freight including the most common conflicts that arise because of proximity
  • Find information that they could incorporate into their local jurisdiction’s planning processes and zoning amendments

For individual citizens or community groups, the goal of this website is to provide basic information about the various freight modes, impacts that arise because of freight activity and proximity to incompatible land uses and the types of tools that can be utilized to more effectively plan for freight.

For state legislators and staff, the goal is to provide information and ideas for potential legislative changes that would facilitate better integration of freight and land use planning.