For most road crews, repairing potholes is an essential and highly visible duty. Choosing the best or most cost-effective pothole repair method, however, has remained a complicated puzzle.
“Selecting the appropriate patching method and materials varies depending on several factors, including the size of the pothole and its location on the roadway,” says Manik Barman, an assistant professor with the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Department of Civil Engineering. “Patching methods and materials also face seasonal challenges in Minnesota when asphalt plants shut down for the winter, turning cold-weather repairs into short-term fixes.”
To help solve this puzzle, the Minnesota Department of Transportation funded research to help road crews choose patching methods that match specific repair conditions. UMD researchers explored patching tools, materials, and methods to identify which ones were most appropriate for specific pothole conditions, road locations, and time of year. They also evaluated the effectiveness of different methods based on durability, road safety, ride quality, and driver satisfaction.
Driving 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?
Members of the public often hear news about the deteriorating state of the nation’s infrastructure, but in general they are unaware of the efforts and costs required to maintain and operate the transportation systems they rely on every day.
In a recent study, U of M researchers sought to better understand stakeholder attitudes, knowledge, and engagement about financing for local road system management. “It’s important for people to be informed and to be listened to, and to have their opinions taken into consideration in decision making,” says Guillermo Narváez, a former research associate with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the project’s principal investigator. “This approach very often leads to better outcomes than non-participative decisions.”
Narváez collaborated with Professor Kathryn Quick, also with the Humphrey School, for the project. The research team collected and analyzed data about the general climate of stakeholder knowledge and attitudes toward road financing. Data were collected through media analysis, case studies, interviews, and surveys of county government leaders.
U of M researchers shared their work in more than 35 sessions at this year’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, on January 7-11. Their posters and papers covered a wide range of topics, including public transportation accessibility, autonomous vehicles, highway safety performance, bike sharing, and pavements.
In addition, 20 graduate students received travel awards to attend the meeting, where they presented research and networked with other attendees.
U of M researchers have received funding from MnDOT and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board for 17 new projects beginning this summer.
Researchers will use this funding to explore a wide range of transportation-related topics, including separated bike lanes, roadside turfgrass, Complete Streets, and sustainable pavements.
To park or to develop is a key question for transit station area planning. While park-and-ride facilities are one of the primary ways that transit riders reach stations, using the surrounding land for development allows passengers to shop or do other activities and can help reduce auto dependence. Although both have the potential to improve ridership, they often seem mutually exclusive. Twin Cities planners are interested in a hybrid option: locating park-and-ride facilities at the periphery of development around transitway stations.
This hybrid would require transit users to walk farther. In a new study, researchers at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs led by Professor Jason Cao studied how far park-and-ride users are willing to walk, which factors influence that willingness, and which factors are the most important to park-and-ride users’ decision to walk.
The Roadway Safety Institute’s seminar series kicks off this week! Join us for the first seminar on January 18 to hear how University of Minnesota researchers have designed in-vehicle systems for high-risk drivers.
The series, held on Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Central, features leading roadway safety researchers in a wide range of disciplines. Seminars are free and open to anyone interested in learning more about transportation safety research. Undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and practitioners are encouraged to attend.