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College of Engineering to lead Upper Midwest freight study

Teresa M. Adams

Teresa M. Adams (large image)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will lead a multi-state study on freight transportation in the Upper Midwest to assess the ability of transportation systems to handle increased freight traffic in the coming years.

The study will focus on corridors and transportation systems stretching from Minnesota to Ohio, and includes the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. The study will assess not only roads and highways, but also rail corridors, airports, and lake and river ports.

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Teresa Adams will lead the study, along with the Midwest Regional University Transportation Center (MRUTC), which is based at UW-Madison's College of Engineering. Adams serves as associate director of the center.

"It's crucial that we develop a thorough assessment of our infrastructure needs for the coming decades," Adams said. "We know our transportation systems play a critical role in keeping our economy healthy and growing."

The study is part of a broader assessment currently under way nationally about freight transportation and the ability of transportation systems to handle anticipated increases in freight traffic. Similar studies are under way for freight transportation in southern and western states, along with the heavily trafficked Eastern seaboard.

The United States' freight corridors move more than 15 billion tons of goods worth nearly $10 trillion. By the year 2020, the system is expected to see in an increase to 23 billion tons of goods worth $30 trillion. Although bulk goods — coal, grains, and commodities — still comprise the majority of freight traffic, items such as computers and office equipment make up a larger share of transported goods.

The 14-month study, in assessing freight corridors throughout the Midwest, will look at issues including performance measures for freight transportation systems, best practices of multi-jurisdictional freight planning efforts, and regulatory constraints on shipping and transporting goods.

The cost, efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of freight transportation systems will all be major parts of the Upper Midwest study, Adams says.

"We know our transportation systems will see a significant increase in demand," Adams says. "We want to give public policy makers and transportation officials an accurate snapshot of the current freight corridor system and the anticipated demand."

Funding for the $412,500 study comes from transportation departments in six states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Transportation agencies in Michigan and the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario will also participate, although not directly fund the study.

Other participating institutions in the study are the University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Toledo.