Research

Upper Mississippi River Lock and Dam

What would happen if something were to stop the flow of goods along the Upper Mississippi River? Researchers at the Mid-America Freight Coalition (MAFC), headquartered at the National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education (CFIRE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explored the costs of failure of the systems that support freight shipments along this waterway. The results of their investigation have been released in a report titled, “Modal Investment Comparison: The Impact of Upper Mississippi River Lock and Dam Shutdowns on State Highway Infrastructure.” The report provides guidance to states around the costs and benefits of infrastructure maintenance and investment decisions.

An important component of the Midwest economy, the Upper Mississippi River is responsible for the movement of over $88 billion in goods annually. This is a crucial mode of freight movement, especially for the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, which rely on the waterway to export their agricultural products and other raw materials. Unfortunately, the infrastructure that makes freight movement along this waterway possible is in a fragile state with many points of potential failure. The precarious situation begs the question whether the region’s states can afford to maintain the waterway infrastructure or, alternatively, take on the added expenses that would be incurred when other modes absorb displaced freight movement in the event of a failure.

Accumulated Traffic in Event of Lock Failure

This map shows how a failure in the lock and dam system along the Upper Mississippi River would result in a cascade of accumulating truck traffic along the region’s highways. The line thickness represents the millions of tons of agricultural exports from the affected states that would be forced onto highways on their journey to domestic and international markets.

“The Mississippi River is of vital importance to the economies of Iowa, the Upper Midwest, and the nation as a whole,” said Sam Hiscocks, Freight Coordinator at the Iowa Department of Transportation. “With agricultural exports expected to increase and the expansion of the Panama Canal shifting the amount of goods that can be shipped via ports on the Gulf of Mexico, the State of Iowa has a strong interest in the condition of the Mississippi River infrastructure.”

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Wisconsin Port Worker

Wisconsin’s marine freight system is a tremendous asset for both a strong economy as well as a healthy environment in the state. Research coming out of the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is helping multiple organizations and agencies target priority projects as they create and implement plans for the state’s freight infrastructure and economic development. Top among the priority projects identified were the state’s Marine Highways as well as repairs and upgrades to key ports. [click to continue…]

Conclusions of UW Transportation Research Playing Out in Global Supply Chain Platform

November 16, 2016

An innovative approach that transforms a negative into a positive for Wisconsin manufacturers and producers substantiates findings in research completed by the Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Simply put, geography is an issue for Wisconsin shippers wishing to utilize intermodal rail—rail combined with other transportation modes […]

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GIS Offers Powerful Insights for Researchers Hoping to Guide Transportation Policy

May 20, 2016

Several CFIRE projects were used to illustrate unique uses of Geographical Information System (GIS) data for a diverse group of people at the 2016 UW-Madison Geospatial Summit. The annual event brings together people interested in using GIS data in a wide range of fields. Ben Zietlow shared several case studies from a variety of research […]

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Strategies for Increasing Use of Existing Transportation Infrastructure

August 28, 2014

The construction and maintenance of new infrastructure is not always the best way of confronting congestion. In many cases, it is much less expensive to design policies that shift traffic to underutilized infrastructure. The Getting the Goods without the Bads: Freight Transportation Demand Management Strategies to Reduce Urban Impacts (CFIRE 07-02) project, led by CFIRE […]

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Estimation of Road Friction through Lab Results

August 27, 2014

Proper pavement texture is crucial to prevent road accidents, especially in wet conditions, but there are currently no minimum friction requirements in US road design. This is due mostly to the cost and difficulty of direct friction measurement that would be needed to confirm such requirements. This project proposes that friction, as well as noise […]

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Satellite Sensors Improve NO2 Detection

August 26, 2014

Advances in satellite technologies have led to improved estimates of air pollution emissions. In the United States, ground-level instruments are expensive, and typically limited to urban areas. However, air emissions from truck and rail are significant in rural areas, away from existing monitors. Satellite-mounted instruments have been used to measure changes in emissions, from expanding […]

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