Blog Archives

Minnesota freight market profiled in new paper

Performance of the freight system in Minnesota profoundly affects economic competitiveness. But perspectives vary on what constitutes and contributes to an attractive, competitive freight environment. Differences among various interests—carriers, retailers, consumers, and government—give rise to a certain competitive tension underlying critical decision making and investment involving freight.

To make sense of it all, the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee (MFAC) in June published Components of an Attractive Minnesota Freight Market (PDF). The white paper, which identifies key aspects of an attractive freight market in Minnesota, is the first in a planned MFAC series about freight transportation issues important to Minnesota’s economy.

Posted in Economics, Freight, Transportation research

New warning systems aim to reduce rear-end crashes on Minnesota freeways

To reduce congestion and improve safety, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has deployed active traffic management (ATM) technology on two freeways in the Twin Cities. The ATM system incorporates intelligent lane control signals placed over selected lanes at half-mile increments to warn motorists of incidents or hazards ahead.

Using this existing ATM infrastructure, U of M researchers have developed and field-tested two prototypes for queue warning systems in a new MnDOT-funded project. The warning systems specifically focus on preventing rear-end collisions—the most frequent type of crash on freeways.

Posted in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Urban transportation

U of M researchers are helping build better bridge repairs

This summer, U of M researchers are bringing bridge girders into their lab to help MnDOT evaluate a repair method that could ultimately reduce traffic interruptions caused by infrastructure repairs.

The salting of bridge and roadway surfaces during Minnesota winters can create highly corrosive conditions that result in damage to bridges. Such was the case with the Trunk Highway 169 Nine Mile Creek Bridge near Edina and Minnetonka, where leaking expansion joints caused corrosion to elements responsible for the strength of bridge girders: shear reinforcement, prestressing strands, and the surrounding concrete. MnDOT repaired the damaged girder ends in 2013 by encasing them using a system of steel dowels, additional shear reinforcement, and sprayed concrete. MnDOT was able to make the repairs without traffic interruption.

Now, the bridge is being replaced, and U of M professor Carol Shield and her team of researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of the 2013 repair. The researchers’ goal is to determine if the repair strengthened the corrosion-damaged girders to a level similar to noncorroded girders. If proven effective, MnDOT could use this type of repair to lengthen the useful life of existing bridges and save travelers time and frustration caused by repair-related traffic delays.

Posted in Bridges and structures, Infrastructure, Maintenance, Transportation research

How equitable is bicycling infrastructure?

As the movement to promote bicycling as a means of transportation has grown, so has the amount of money governments and nonprofit organizations are investing in the nation’s urban bicycling infrastructure. A concern, however, is whether these investments are distributed equitably among neighborhoods.

In a new study, U of M researchers looked at this issue using Minneapolis as a case study and found that though inequities still exist, equity is improving.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Bicycling, Planning, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Infrastructure award to improve driving simulators in U of M lab

Immersive driving simulator cab and projector systemThe U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory has received a 2017 Research Infrastructure Investment Program award of just over $186,000 from the U’s Office of the Vice President for Research.

The lab is a facility of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. It conducts research to collect, analyze, and understand driver behavior generated during driving simulation studies and field tests of enhanced human-machine interfaces designed to reduce risky driving behaviors.

The lab houses two advanced driving simulators, which together host most of its research experiments. Funds from the award will be used to overhaul components of both simulators. The upgrade is expected to re-engage Minnesota as a national leader in driving behavior research.

Posted in Safety, Technology, Transportation research

Policies needed to ensure the promise of self-driving vehicles for those unable to drive

Dashboard of a self-driving vehicleOne of the predicted benefits of self-driving vehicles (SDVs) is improved mobility and access for those unable to drive. The extent to which this happens, however, will depend not just on marketplace competition, but also on public policy decisions that ensure an equitable transportation system.

This is the conclusion of a new analysis by Frank Douma, director of the State and Local Policy Program (SLPP) at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Adeel Lari, director of innovative financing at SLPP; and Kory Andersen, graduate student in urban and regional planning. The research was conducted under the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness Program, which is led by SLPP.

Posted in Accessibility (for people with disabilities), Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Intelligent vehicles, Technology, Transportation research

What’s really behind rear-end highway crashes?

Congested vehicle traffic on a freewayRear-end crashes are a major cause of highway traffic slowdowns, and preventing these congestion-causing incidents requires a clear understanding of why they occur in the first place. On the surface, it might seem like the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is the primary cause of the collision; however, the reality is much more complex.

In a new study, U of M researchers found that because shockwaves—areas of suddenly stopping or slowing traffic—are usually the cause of rear-end collisions on highways, drivers at the front of a group of cars may have as much or more to do with the rear-end collisions happening at the back of the group than those involved in the crashes themselves.

Posted in Safety, Transportation research, Urban transportation
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