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Pilot project aims to build farm-grocery-wholesale networks

backhaulThe U of M Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships recently began a project that connects small- and medium-sized farms to wholesale markets using existing infrastructure.

The pilot project is the first in the nation to develop and test “backhauling” as a way to help these farms get their produce to wholesalers for wider distribution. Backhauling uses the return trip of a delivery truck to carry locally grown foods from rural grocers back to wholesale distribution centers. The long-term goal is to increase the viability, competitiveness, and sustainability of the farms through access to the wholesale market.

Posted in Economics, Freight

State of freight in Minnesota explored in new annual report

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 12.57.25 PMThe Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee (MFAC) recently published its 2017 annual report on the state of freight in Minnesota.

Established in 1998, MFAC ensures that planning, research, investment, and operations of Minnesota’s transportation system address the needs of the state’s freight transportation industry. In addition, MFAC strives to help build a better understanding of freight’s role and to shape more effective and efficient ways for moving the products that drive a thriving economy.

The annual report highlights a number of 2017 MFAC activities that supported those aims, including a white paper authored by Humphrey School researcher Matt Schmit that identified the key components of an attractive freight market.

Posted in Economics, Freight

U of M researchers evaluate I-405 tolled corridor in Washington

University of Minnesota researchers recently completed a traffic data and performance analysis of the I-405 tolled corridor in Washington State.

Lawmakers in Washington authorized the creation of express toll lanes (ETLs), including the conversion of some existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, in 2011. The lanes opened to traffic in September 2015.

Last year, U of M researchers analyzed traffic data from 2014–2017 to determine where the I-405 ETL facility is working and where it is underperforming. In addition, the team was asked to compare its findings against relevant performance measures contained in state statute.

Posted in Economics, Planning, Traffic operations, Transportation funding, Transportation research

From grain supply chains to flying medical devices: What’s next for TPEC?

grain2Driving south of the Twin Cities on a fall late afternoon, you’ll see the sun shining pale and coarse through the dust kicked up by autumn harvesters. On either side of the road, grain stalks roll on in a smooth, seemingly endless tan sheet. But when the harvest ends and the crops are sorted, where does all that grain go?

With grain and feed comprising 28 percent of all freight volume along local highways—the largest share of any commodity in the state—answering this question is not only a matter of safe and efficient transportation planning. It also means securing the livelihood of 340,000 state residents who work in Minnesota’s growing agriculture sector.

At the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, researchers with the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) Program have mapped this movement on Minnesota roads. Our novel GIS-based approach unveils how technological, political, and market shifts in the grain supply chain impact the way local producers and wholesalers navigate their local freight networks—a network that spans road, rail, and barge infrastructure.

Now, TPEC is shifting its attention to the medical supply chain, which is another central driver of the Minnesota economy. But how do we design transportation policy that invigorates and accommodates growth in this burgeoning sector? What lessons are there to learn from grain that can inform this new study?

Posted in Economics, Freight, Planning, Transportation research

Supply chains for grain, medical technology are featured in freight roundtable

Grain and medical technology may not seem to have much in common, but they share at least one trait: both are key industry clusters that help drive Minnesota’s economy. At a roundtable held by the U’s Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) Program, speakers discussed trends in grain and medical-sector supply chains and the implications for freight transportation policy and investments.

TPEC director Lee Munnich opened the event. “Transportation is necessary—but not sufficient—for economic growth,” he said. “In our research, we look at how well the transportation system is working for the economy, and in particular, for the industry clusters that are so important to an area.”

Posted in Economics, Events, Freight, Land use, Transportation research

The economy, the environment, and the future: A student’s reflection on visiting Hong Kong

HK7In May, the Global Transit Innovations (GTI) program coordinated a study-abroad course that took 16 University of Minnesota students to China. The intensive two-week course focused on high-density urban and regional development and included visits to five cities in the Yangtze and Pearl River Delta regions.

In this guest post, student Joseph Ward offers highlights from Hong Kong, the final stop on the course’s itinerary. Ward’s reflections focus on pedestrian infrastructure, density, the economy, and the environment.

Posted in Economics, Education, Environment
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