Conference stresses transport needs

U researchers and state officials say more investments are needed.

by Brian Edwards

More than a thousand people gathered last week to discuss the future of Minnesota’s transportation industry, noting new technology to increase safety and resource shortages.

University of Minnesota researchers, state officials and business owners came together at the second annual Minnesota Transportation Conference in Bloomington for two days of presentations on technology, business partnerships and studies that aim to improve the state’s transportation landscape.

One presentation by the Minnesota Department of Transportation explained the future of surveying technology, including methods that use light detection and ranging data to construct a 3-D image, called LIDAR.

Transportation officials are hoping to create a 3-D map of the state’s roads. For the project, MnDOT will start requiring contractors to provide detailed information on current roadway projects this summer, MnDOT surveys manager Bradley Canaday said at the conference.

He said the map will provide live updates for maintenance workers in hopes of increasing safety at construction sites.

Also, a panel of transportation experts from the University, MnDOT, FedEx and the state Department of Employment and Economic Development discussed ways for transportation projects to benefit businesses.

Lee Munnich, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said certain businesses rely on the same methods of transportation for shipping their goods, which increases the need for improving the state’s roads and railways.

“If [businesses] don’t have good access in Minnesota, then that could diminish their competitiveness,” he said.

Growth in Minnesota’s economy has created a shortage in railroad space and truckers.

Munnich said improvements to roads and railways will help businesses keep their products moving.

“Transportation issues, in general, are dealing with impacts on the flow of product,” said William Goins, chairman of the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee.

Goins said at the conference that furthering the public’s understanding of the state’s transportation needs is necessary.

The panel suggested ways to keep Minnesota’s transportation industry strong. Some experts and state officials said additional state funding is needed, aside from Gov. Mark Dayton’s transportation plan introduced this year that addresses transportation issues statewide.

“If we didn’t have a good transportation system, or if we didn’t continue it invest in it, we could lose businesses to elsewhere,”
Munnich said.