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18th Annual Freight and Logistics Symposium scheduled for Dec. 4

Mark your Adie TomerAdie Tomer calendar! The annual Freight and Logistics Symposium resumes this year on Friday, December 4, at the Ramada Plaza Minneapolis.

Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program and a member of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative, will make the keynote presentation. Tomer studies metropolitan infrastructure usage patterns, including personal and freight transportation, and the intersections between infrastructure and technological development. The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public-policy organization based in Washington, DC.

In 2014, the annual symposium gave way to the Minnesota Statewide Freight Summit/Symposium, a special event aimed at developing a freight action plan in support of an efficient and competitive freight transportation network in Minnesota.

The annual symposium is designed to bring together members of the private sector and government to discuss current issues in the freight and logistics industry and to share public and private initiatives intended to strengthen the freight transportation system. Topics for each symposium are based on critical and emerging issues facing the freight and logistics industry.

The event is geared toward decision makers and practitioners from shippers, carriers, and other private sector organizations involved in logistics and transportation, as well as to government officials and staff, and representatives from nonprofit organizations and academic institutions.

The event is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals–Twin Cities Roundtable, the Metropolitan Council, and the Transportation Club.

More information about the symposium, including registration, will be posted on the event web page as it becomes available. You may also contact Hannah Grune, 612-626-4965, grun0199@umn.edu.


MFAC plans strategic changes to better serve state and freight industry

Bill GoinsBill Goins At the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee (MFAC) meeting in June, several recommendations to improve MFAC and increase its value to Minnesota were presented by a working group tasked with reviewing the committee’s organization and performance as well as investigating freight advisory committees in other states. The review was initiated by the MnDOT Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations to determine whether changes are needed to continue the success of the organization.

The working group found that the freight industry landscape has changed since MFAC was established in 1998. The freight industry is more complicated—fully developed and sophisticated. In Minnesota, industries have become increasingly dependent on efficient transportation. Moreover, the future of Minnesota’s economy must be incorporated into today’s decisions. For example, Minnesota must be connected as seamlessly as possible with the region, the nation, and the world to maintain its economic competitiveness. Further, transportation must adapt to meet the needs of Minnesota’s traditional industries and develop to support emerging industries. In addition, safety and environmental issues related to freight transportation have become more prominent.

Some mfac meetingof the recommended strategic changes include revision of organizational mission and objectives to better support the state’s economic competitiveness, expanded leadership with the development of a vice-chair position and an executive committee, and development of new membership categories. The group also recommended implementation of strategies to better engage the public, elected officials, other public agencies, and key stakeholders on key freight transportation issues. In particular, the group proposed improving communication through a new MFAC website that would act as a central location for information about MFAC meetings and initiatives.

Also at the June meeting, Richard Langer and Weiwen Xie, executives with Quetica, LLC, presented a multimodal freight network optimization model that they recently used for the Iowa Department of Transportation. In addition, Erika Witzke, of Cambridge Systematics, updated the group on the development of a new Minnesota Statewide Freight System Plan. Chris Ryan, of SRF Consulting and a member of the consultant team, provided an update on related stakeholder outreach.

In March, Lee Munnich, of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, presented research examining the economic role of the freight system in the United States and Minnesota in particular. In addition, meeting attendees heard a variety of perspectives on transportation funding at the Minnesota Legislature, including future freight needs. Presenters included State Rep. Frank Hornstein, chair of the Minnesota House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, MnDOT assistant commissioner for policy Sean Rahn, Margaret Donahoe of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, John Hauslauden of the Minnesota Trucking Association, and Greg Genz of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association.

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$30 million available to government entities for transportation economic development

Minnesota freightcities, counties, and other government entities can apply for matching funds for transportation infrastructure projects that support economic development through the 2015 Transportation Economic Development (TED) program of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The TED program is a competitive grant program designed to help meet the state’s transportation and economic development needs by creating and preserving well-paying jobs and leveraging private and local investment in transportation infrastructure. Application deadline is Sept. 25.

A total of $30 million is available in this year’s solicitation. This includes $28 million in MnDOT trunk highway funds and $2 million of DEED general obligation bond funding. The funding will be split between projects in Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

“Roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure are vital to the economic health of Minnesota,” said DEED commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “This innovative collaboration between DEED and MnDOT recognizes that transportation investments and economic development go hand in hand.”

“There’s been a great amount of economic development throughout the state because of this program,” said MnDOT commissioner Charlie Zelle. “Transportation investments can create new jobs and spur economic growth in our communities.”

Projects must support one or more of several industries, including manufacturing, technology, warehousing and distribution, research and development, agricultural processing, bioscience, tourism/recreation, and industrial park development. The TED program solicitation website has a complete list of eligibility guidelines.

Projects will be selected on the basis of transportation impact, statewide economic impact, project financial plan, and project readiness. The TED program has provided more than $77 million in grants to 28 projects throughout the state since 2011. This investment leveraged nearly $120 million in local government and private funds.

Applications must be submitted electronically to Ken Buckeye, MnDOT Office of Finance, by 5 p.m. on September 25, 2015. Applications are on MnDOT’s TED solicitation website. Questions about the solicitation may be directed to Kenneth.Buckeye@state.mn.us or Jeremy.Lacroix@state.mn.us.


Transportation drives growth of industry clusters

From Mayo Clinic siterecreational vehicles in the northwest to Mayo Clinic in the southeast, Minnesota has a diverse and changing set of industry clusters. What do such clusters need to grow and prosper? Recent U of M studies take a look at the vital role of transportation.

Industry clusters are geographically concentrated groups of interconnected companies, universities, and related institutions. As a critical mass, clusters promote efficiencies that individual businesses or industries cannot, and they tend to have a large economic impact on a region.

One study of competitive industry clusters in the greater Minneapolis–St. Paul (MSP) region revealed that some important new clusters—water technology, robotics, 3D printing, and biorenewables—are emerging in the region from existing competitive clusters.

A second cluster study, for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), leveraged quantitative data from the U.S. Cluster Mapping Portal, in addition to information gained through interviews with several companies in varied clusters throughout Minnesota (glass, granite, processed food, and printing/publishing), to learn what issues are most important to them. Major transportation issues identified were weather-related delays, rail capacity and equipment issues, truck driver workforce and regulatory issues, regional air access, congestion delays in the MSP metro area, and carrier availability.

Researchers also completed a cluster-related project in southwestern Minnesota for MnDOT’s District 8. A similar project for MnDOT District 4 in west central Minnesota is under way.

A two-day forum about industry clusters was held in September 2014 by the University of Minnesota Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness Program (TPEC).

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Study reveals how Minnesota industries rely on transportation

A recent research report examines the role transportation plays in Minnesota’s economic competitiveness. Researchers examined the effect of transportation on Minnesota’s competitive industry clusters—geographically concentrated, interconnected groups of companies and institutions that share knowledge networks, supply chains, and specialized labor pools.

The project, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), examined a wide range of industries, including medical devices, robotics, and processed foods. In all, 28 firms were interviewed within 12 industry clusters.

Several common themes emerged from the interviews: the importance of shipment reliability, the desire for improved intermodal freight facilities, and the condition of the infrastructure. For example, several firms whose products were either breakable or perishable cited the need for smooth pavements.

The report also highlights the unique challenges faced by some of the state’s major industry clusters, such as the hospitality and tourism cluster in the Brainerd Lakes Area. A four-lane highway makes it easy for visitors from St. Cloud or the Twin Cities to visit resorts in the area, but travelers coming from the Dakotas face a more circuitous route. Air travel options help to an extent, bringing in visitors from farther distances who can fly in to Fargo or St. Cloud.

MnDOT is incorporating the results of the study into its statewide freight planning. It is also using the industry-clusters approach in a statewide effort to talk with manufacturers, other shippers, and carriers about their transportation priorities and challenges. Two similar projects have been undertaken in Greater Minnesota, and a third study is starting this year.

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Transportation and supply-chain decisions play a key role in reducing carbon emissions

Reducing deliverycarbon emissions has become a growing concern for governments and companies worldwide. Firms are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint because of regulatory requirements and pressure from their own consumers and shareholders. Most of the carbon-cutting measures taken by companies, however, have focused on often-costly strategies such as replacing equipment, redesigning products and packaging, finding less-polluting sources of energy, or instituting energy-savings programs.

In a paper published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota industrial and systems engineering professor Saif Benjaafar describes how relatively simple and widely used models can integrate carbon emission concerns into operational and supply-chain decision making. By incorporating carbon emissions into existing supply chain models, Benjaafar and his co-authors offer a new way of thinking about the supply chain.

Through the development and use of these updated models, researchers gained a series of important insights—most notably, that reducing carbon emissions need not be an expensive endeavor. Not only will the models outlined in this research prove useful to supply chain practitioners, they can also be used by policymakers looking to craft effective carbon emission regulations.

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Tech notes: Gleanings from the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Technology Exchange

roadPortable WIM system testing at MnROAD “Portable weigh-in-motion system provides low-cost screening”

A University of Minnesota Duluth researcher developed a portable weigh-in-motion (WIM) system prototype that can be installed with tape and anchors in less than 40 minutes and that costs significantly less than permanent WIM systems. The prototype’s portability gives agencies the flexibility to gather data at multiple locations without additional—and generally impractical—costs of purchasing a new system.

“Tool measures impact of heavy trucks”

A tool developed by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board helps cities and counties assess how much increased heavy vehicle traffic affects local roads. The analysis method and corresponding spreadsheet tool calculate the impact of heavy vehicles on asphalt roads beyond what was planned in the original pavement design.

“Overweight or not? Truck-Weight Education Program has the answers”

In recent years, legislative changes have increased allowable truck weights for some industries and for some vehicle configurations, complicating an already complicated and technical area of law. The Minnesota Truck-Weight Education Program deciphers these laws and explains the configurations in easy-to-understand language. Free classes statewide teach attendees how to haul larger—but legal—weights. The program is funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in cooperation with Alexandria Technical and Community College and Minnesota LTAP.


FHWA ‘Talking Freight’ seminars

“Talking Freight” online seminars from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provide transportation practitioners a way to broaden their freight knowledge base and develop new job skills. Seminars typically are held from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) on the third Wednesday of each month. Please check the Talking Freight Seminars website for the latest information. Recorded sessions of previous seminars are available from the Talking Freight Archives.


More news and information

coverRecently published freight-related research from the Transportation Research Board (TRB):


CTS Freight & Logistics E-News is published three times a year by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Center for Transportation Studies
Director: Laurie McGinnis
Associate Director, Engagement and Education: Gina Baas
Director of Digital Information and Library Services: Arlene Mathison

Freight and Logistics E-News publications staff

Editor: Michael McCarthy
Contributing Editors: Christine Anderson, Pam Snopl
Contributing Writer: Megan Tsai
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