Infrastructure

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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Infrastructure Banks and the Funding the Transportation System

January 3, 2012

Altantic Cities considers infrastructure banks for funding the transportation system: “I-banks” could lend states, municipalities, and perhaps even private sector agencies a significant portion of project funds that would later be paid back through user fees, public-private partnerships, or dedicated taxes. The idea is to get more transportation projects under construction without significantly expanding the […]

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Bike/Ped Projects Create More Jobs

June 20, 2011

A newly released study from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst–entitled Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts–finds that investment in bicycle and pedestrian projects creates more jobs than road-only projects. Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For […]

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Bike/Ped Infrastructure Helps Create Jobs

January 19, 2011

In a recently released case study entitled Estimating the Employment Impacts of Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Road Infrastructure, the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst reports that investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates jobs on par with investments in road infrastructure and resurfacing. For the complete story, take a look at the […]

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