Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act, legislation put in place in 2007, set goals for energy conservation, renewable energy use, and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. This includes reducing GHG pollution from 2005 levels by 30 percent and 80 percent by 2025 and 2050, respectively.
In February, CTS convened all five of our research, education, and engagement councils for a joint meeting focused on how the transportation community can help reduce GHG emissions. The meeting was held in conjunction with our Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on February 15.
MnDOT is exploring the development of freeway “lids” at key locations on I-94 in the Twin Cities. To analyze the potential for private-sector investment and determine what steps might be needed to make lid projects a reality, MnDOT invited the Urban Land Institute (ULI) MN to conduct a Technical Assistance Panel with real estate experts and other specialists. The U’s Metropolitan Design Center (MDC) provided background and research for the panel.
A lid, also known as a cap or land bridge, is a structure built over a freeway trench to connect areas on either side. Lids may also support green space and development above the roadway and along adjacent embankments. Although lidding is not a new concept, it is gaining national attention as a way to restore communities damaged when freeways were first built in the 1960s.
According to MnDOT, roughly half of the 145 bridges on I-94 between the east side of Saint Paul and the north side of Minneapolis need work within the next 15 years. A shorter window applies in the area around the capitol to as far west as MN-280. In anticipation of the effort to rebuild so much infrastructure, the department wanted a deeper understanding of how attractive freeway lids and their surrounding areas would be to private developers and whether the investment they would attract would generate sufficient revenue to pay for them.
U of M researchers have developed a way to identify the exact location of “hot spots” for air pollutants created by transit buses—work that could be used to create new strategies for addressing emission hot spots in the future.
The research team, led by Professor David Kittelson of the Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME), began by collecting data using two different instrumented buses, one with a standard diesel engine and automatic transmission and another with a hybrid engine and selectively enabled start-stop technology (both model year 2013). Nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions and GPS data were recorded for each bus during spring, summer, and fall on an inner city route with frequent stops and slow speeds, a medium-speed route with longer distances between stops, and an express route that required little braking.
Congratulations to CTS Scholar Ying Song, an assistant professor in the U’s Department of Geography, Environment, and Society, who recently received two awards for her 2015 dissertation.
University of Minnesota Extension researchers have identified and tested a promising plant that has the potential to make the creation of living snow fences faster and more affordable. The plant—shrub willow—also could become a source of biomass and income for farmers.
When planted alongside rural roadways, living snow fences—rows of trees, shrubs, or other vegetation—serve as windbreaks to keep snow and ice from blowing off farm fields and onto roads. They help improve safety for drivers while reducing maintenance operations costs for local agencies.
Shrub willow is easily planted with dormant stem cuttings, has fast growth rates, offers numerous ecosystem services, is adaptable to an array of growing conditions, and even has the potential to serve as a fuel for biomass energy production.
The mix of fuels used to power the vehicles on our nation’s roadways is diversifying rapidly. While gasoline and diesel are still dominant, an increasing percentage of vehicle power is coming from alternatives such as biofuel, natural gas, and electricity. What could this shift mean for Minnesota’s transportation future? The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board turned to U of M experts for analysis.
“The rise of alternative fuels is something we need to keep a close eye on, because it presents a number of issues that may significantly alter our state’s transportation system,” says Adam Boies, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering (CEGE).
To allow water to flow beneath roads, engineers use culverts. Steel culverts, however, corrode over time, and their service lives depend on the properties of the soil that surrounds them.
To help engineers choose the appropriate steel pipe materials for culverts in different parts of the state, U of M researchers collected soil data and developed a series of steel pipe service-life maps for Minnesota. The project, funded by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), will help agencies save on costs while developing longer-lasting infrastructure.