Sustainable Freight Infrastructure to Meet Climate and Air Quality Goals

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Primary Investigator

Tracey Holloway
University of Wisconsin-Madison
SAGE, 1710 University Ave., Room 201A
Madison, WI 53726


We will evaluate the potential of expanded rail routes to reduce freight transport by truck, taking into account total freight transport demands (now and projected into the future), costs of rail-based freight transport, and the emission impact of broader rail use. By evaluating the potential environmental and freight transport benefits of the MWRRI, the full costs, benefits, and potential synergies of an expanded Midwest rail system may be evaluated. To conduct this analysis, we will use the current and projected 2020 freight transport data from the Freight Analysis Framework, in concert with the proposed rail improvements from the MWRRI. We will combine these plans of action for 2020 with U.S. EPA emissions models, including MOBILE6 and GREET. Distributed air quality impacts of emissions changes will be input into the CMAQ model. Throughout the project, our group will work with the National Center for Freight Infrastructure, Research, and Education (CFIRE) and stakeholder groups to ensure that rail/freight scenarios are realistic and relevant to long-term freight planning.


The proposed study will quantify the air quality and climate benefits from expanded use of railroad freight transport, building on the routes identified by the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI). Rail improvements associated with the MWRRI, targeted at passenger travel with high-speed trains, would simultaneously offer opportunities for increased freight transport by rail in the Upper Midwestern U.S.


  1. Develop scenarios of rail expansion for freight shipment
  2. Review scenarios with stakeholders; select final subset
  3. Evaluate NOx, SO2, CO2 and other emission changes
  4. Quantify costs of each scenario
  5. Evaluate spatial changes of O3 and PM2.5

Project Information

  • Duration: 24 months
  • Dates: September 1, 2008 – August 31, 2010
  • Budget: CFIRE: $121,304
  • Modal Orientation: Highway and Rail
  • Project ID: CFIRE 02-09
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