Rail to Truck Modal Shift: Impact of Increased Freight Traffic on Pavement Maintenance Costs

Available Documents
Quarterly Report December 2005
Quarterly Report March 2006
Quarterly Report June 2006
Quarterly Report September 2006
Quarterly Report December 2006
Quarterly Report March 2007
Quarterly Report June 2007
Quarterly Report September 2007
Quarterly Report December 2007
Final Report

Primary Investigator
Richard D. Stewart, PhD
University of Wisconsin – Superior
(715) 394 8547

Project Objective
The objectives of this research is to determine the impact on pavement when rail
freight from a short-line railroad is transferred to truck traffic.

Project Abstract
The continued loss of rail network infrastructure and rail service throughout the US has most instances resulted in the modal shift of rail freight back to truck. Rail freight converted to truck may have significant impact on pavement maintenance costs and activities due to the increased highway traffic volumes. This study will investigate three short-line rail routes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and will determine the potential impacts of diverting rail freight flows to truck. A logistics flow routing will be created illustrating the new truck flows by highway classification and usage. The targeted highways current conditions and asset
management techniques will be documented. A pavement maintenance model will be
used to determine the incremental pavement maintenance cost per ton-mile if additional freight moved over various classes of highway and their impact on highway funding.

Task Descriptions

  1. The research team will conduct a case study of a representative short line rail segment(s) in Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Minnesota.
  2. The study will determine current freight volumes on the rail segment(s) of the selected rail routes and what the corresponding trucking volumes would be if this rail traffic were diverted to nearby roads.
  3. A logistical flow analysis will be made for the increased truck movements due closure and those models will be used to assist in an examination of which roads would be impacted by the closure of the selected rail segment.
  4. The impacted roads will benchmarked for their current condition and a model developed for assessing the future maintenance costs that would result from rail traffic being diverted to trucking.
  5. The research team will utilize asset management techniques and pavement maintenance models to determine the incremental pavement maintenance cost per ton-mile of additional freight moved over various classes of highway and the impact on highway funding
  6. A model showing freight variables and pavement cost and maintenance approaches will be developed as a tool for State DOT and regional planners to use as a frame of reference for future rail modal shift analyses.

Relationship to Other Research Projects
Parallels and is supported by the Evaluation of Shipper Requirements and Rail Service
for Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with researcher from
UW-Superior and Michigan Tech University

Technology Transfer Activities
Guidelines will be established and included in the final report

Potential Benefits of the Project
The project will provide assistance to governments in asset management.

Project Information

  • Milestones, Dates: Project Start Date: August 1, 2005. Project End Date: September 01, 2006; Extended to: November 30, 2007
  • Budget: $87,000, Matching Funds & %: $12,000
  • Student Involvement:1 graduate student, 3 undergraduate seniors
  • TRB Keywords: Modal Shift, Short-line Rail, Asset Management, Pavement Maintenance, Truck, Rail, Freight
  • Primary Subject: Application and Use of Statistics in Maintenance Quality Assurance
  • Modal Orientation: Highway and Rail
  • Project ID: 06-03