Assessment of Multimodal Freight Bottlenecks and Alleviation Strategies for Upper Midwest Region

Quarterly Reports Other Documents Final Report
December 2007
March 2008
June 2008
September 2008
March 2009
June 2009
September 2009
December 2009
March 2010
Final Report

Primary Investigator

Jessica Guo, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1415 Engineering Drive, 1206 EH
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 890-1064


The freight that passes through the Mississippi Valley Region is high volume and has a substantial impact on the economy of the region.  According to the BTS-sponsored Commodity Flow Survey, trucks carried almost 2.5 billion tons of freight across the highways of the 10 states of the Mississippi Valley region in 2002.  During that same year, the region’s rails moved 540 million tons of freight, and the region’s waterways moved approximately 250 million tons of freight.  Efficient movement of freight through this region is critical to the economic competitiveness of the nation.

The Upper Midwest Freight Corridor Study, completed by the Midwest Regional University Transportation Center (MRUTC) and six states, revealed that major bottlenecks exist in all modes of the freight transportation system throughout the region.  According to the 2005 FHWA-sponsored report “An Initial Assessment of Freight Bottlenecks on Highways”, more than 60 highway-related freight bottlenecks exist in our region.  Three of the largest bottlenecks in the country are in Chicago and total over 38.4 million annual hours of delay for all vehicles. With current estimates indicating that by the year 2020 a 62% and 44% increase in the amount of freight carried on the nation’s highways and rail, respectively, it is clear that steps must be taken to improve the efficiency of the freight network.  Bottlenecks also account for long delays at the ports of entry, intermodal freight terminals and yards, and locks and dams. These delays result directly in additional expenditures for shippers, carriers and for the public in general.

Furthermore, as global economic competitors have invested heavily in their transportation infrastructure, the transportation cost advantages historically held by the United States are beginning to decline.  Bottlenecks in all modes are significantly increasing the cost of transporting goods through the region, which in turn is contributing to the decline of the nation’s transportation cost advantage.  The MVFC Executive Committee agreed at its July 10th, 2007 meeting that addressing regional freight bottlenecks is one of the most significant projects for the coalition to undertake.


  • To identify freight bottlenecks on regionally significant routes and modes including highway, rail, and water.
  • To identify and apply criteria to rank the bottlenecks within each mode.
  • To assess bottleneck rankings across the multiple modes of transportation.
  • To develop an inventory of planned projects across the region for addressing identified bottlenecks.
  • To recommend additional bottleneck solutions for the region.


  1. Review existing studies on freight bottleneck analysis and ranking methodologies.
  2. Interview major stakeholders in the public and private sectors to identify significant freight bottlenecks in the region.
  3. Compare and combine the findings from Tasks 1 and 2 to identify a list of potential freight bottlenecks in the region.
  4. Collect and compile existing data that describe the conditions of the freight bottlenecks identified in Task 3.
  5. Apply the analysis framework developed in Task 3 to the data collected from Task 4 to develop preliminary rankings of freight bottlenecks across the different modes.
  6. Develop a web-based decision support system (DSS).
  7. Deploy the DSS to obtain the final bottleneck rankings.
  8. Contact state DOTs and MPOs in the region to obtain information pertaining to the schedule and the nature of any planned improvement projects for addressing bottlenecks.
  9. Review the information collected from Task 8 to develop a list of recommendations regarding how to address regionally significant bottlenecks in a coordinated and effective manner.
  10. Prepare the final report.

Project Information

  • Duration: 21 months
  • Dates: October 30, 2007 – June 30, 2009
  • Budget: CFIRE: $46,250; Total: $138,750
  • Modal Orientation: Multimodal
  • Project ID: MVFC 05
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