Those who use the roads in Minnesota are generally those who pay for them — through gasoline and vehicle taxes.
But motorists aren’t the only ones who benefit when a new interchange is built or a highway is improved. Home and business values along the corridor go up and the price of undeveloped land can skyrocket.
With highway funds strapped, a new method of funding road expansion, called “real estate value capture,” is garnering attention.
This emerging technique strives to identify beneficiaries of transportation improvements beyond just the highway user, so they provide their fair share of the costs — a concept not dissimilar from residential street assessment.
For instance, a local government might dedicate the additional property tax revenue generated due to a new highway to offset some construction costs, or collect fees on land that is developed near an interchange.
However, value capture is a relatively new technique that has been used primarily for transit projects. To be considered for roads or bridges, questions need to be addressed about potential revenue, impacts and public acceptability.
In a new case study, researchers use a long-delayed planned extension of Highway 610 in Maple Grove to model the impact of a completed highway on nearby property values, and, for the first time, quantify the potential revenues from several value capture strategies.
With properties near new highway exits worth an additional $65,450 more per acre, researchers calculated that $37.1 million in revenue could be generated through assessments on existing development and impact fees for future development.
Other strategies explored include tax-increment financing and private-public development of undeveloped parcels, in which revenue generated by that development is split.
“This research demonstrates a way to estimate the value of transportation improvement and to communicate that to the public,” said principal investigator Jerry Zhao, an associate professor of public administration at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Even naturally derived products like corn syrup and beet juice can impact the environment when applied to salt mixtures for winter roadways.
A wide range of products, including the ones mentioned above, are added to deicing mixes to limit the amount of salt needed for Minnesota roads each winter. However, although information is available about the corrosive properties of various deicing chemicals, less is known about the toxicity of these compounds, especially to the aquatic environment.
Thanks to a recently completed project sponsored by the Clear Roads Pooled Fund, MnDOT winter maintenance personnel will better understand the relative toxicity of eight common deicing agents, which also include non-organics like Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Chloride and Potassium Acetate.
“Because the state has been trying a lot of different alternative chemicals, we wanted to get a better handle on the environmental impacts,” said MnDOT engineer Tom Peters, the technical liaison for the 26-member, Minnesota-led pooled fund for winter maintenance research.
In January, researchers plan to release a concise summary of the toxicity rankings to help winter highway maintenance managers consider both expected levels of service and potential harm to the environment when selecting a deicer.
About Clear Roads
Minnesota is the lead state for the Clear Roads Pooled Fund, which conducts rigorous testing of winter maintenance materials, equipment and techniques. Other recent and upcoming research (see our Technical Summary on the program) includes a winter maintenance cost-benefit analysis toolkit, snow removal techniques at extreme temperatures and environmental factors that can cause fatigue in snowplow operators.
You can learn more about Clear Roads via the project’s e-newsletter.
Minnesota’s next round of transportation research projects will explore using traffic signal data to predict crashes, evaluate various impacts of bicycling on the state and address a range of other transportation issues.
The state’s two transportation research governing boards have authorized funding for a total of 24 new research projects. MnDOT’s Transportation Research Innovation Group (TRIG) and the Local Road Research Board announced their Fiscal Year 2015 funding awards this week after hearing proposals from researchers in several states. MnDOT Research Management Engineer Hafiz Munir said the projects, which are listed below, reflect the needs of state and local practitioners.
“Many of the projects fall under the ‘traffic and safety’ or ‘materials and construction’ categories, which I think reflects MnDOT and local agency priorities,” Munir said. “Ultimately, all of these research projects address business needs of the people who build and maintain our roads.”
Links are provided to brief descriptions of each project (as provided by the researchers who submitted the proposals).
- Study of De-icing Salt Accumulation and Transport Through a Watershed (PDF) – LRRB
- Culvert Length and Interior Lighting Impacts to Topeka Shiner Passage (PDF) – MnDOT
- DSRC Based Warning System for Workers Safety (PDF) – MnDOT
- Examining the Impact of ASE in Work Zones on Driver Attention (PDF) – MnDOT
Materials and Construction
- Alternate Design Methods to Renew Lightly Traveled Paved Roads (PDF) – LRRB
- Optimal RAP Content for Minnesota Gravel Roads (PDF) – LRRB
- Bio-Fog Seal Evaluation (1) (PDF) – LRRB/MnDOT
- Full Depth Reclamation (FDR) for Urban and Suburban Street Application (PDF) – LRRB
- PCC Pavement Thickness Variation Versus Observed Pavement Distress (PDF) – MnDOT
- Evaluation of Recycled Aggregates Test Section Performance (PDF) – MnDOT
- Bio-Fog Seal Evaluation (2) (PDF) – LRRB/MnDOT
- Traffic Impacts of Bicycle Facilities (PDF) – LRRB
- Assessing the Economic Impact and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Minnesota (PDF) – MnDOT
Policy and Planning
- Barriers to Right-of-Way Acquisition and Recommendations for Change (PDF) – LRRB
- Modernizing Road Construction Plans and Documentation (PDF) – LRRB
- Stakeholder Attitudes, Knowledge and Engagement in Local Road Systems Planning Decision-Making (PDF) – LRRB
Traffic and Safety
- Examination of Driver Performance and Distraction with In-Vehicle Signing (PDF) – LRRB
- Safety Study of I-35W Improvements Done Under UPA Project (PDF) – MnDOT
- Evaluation of Intersection Conflict Warning Systems (PDF) – MnDOT
- Evaluation of Safety and Mobility of Two-Lane Roundabouts (PDF) – LRRB
- Framework and Guidelines for the Development of a Twin Cities Meso-DTA Model (PDF) – MnDOT
- Development of a Queue Warning System Utilizing ATM Infrastructure: System Development and Field Testing (PDF) – MnDOT
- Estimation of Traffic Conflicts at Signalized Intersections Using High-resolution Traffic Signal Data (PDF) – MnDOT
Last month, the Center for Transportation Studies and the MnDOT Library hosted the joint annual meetings of the Transportation Library Connectivity & Development Pooled Fund Study TPF-5(237), the Midwest Transportation Knowledge Network (MTKN), and the Western Transportation Knowledge Network (WTKN). Librarians from fourteen state DOTs, several universities, the Portland Cement Association, and the National Transportation Library met on the University of Minnesota campus and at MnDOT’s Central Office building, with some members attending portions of the meetings remotely.
The packed agendas included:
- Business and committee meetings
- A presentation on bridge inspection by David Hedeen, P.E., from MnDOT’s Bridge Office
- A copyright workshop led by Nancy Sims of the University of Minnesota Libraries
- Tours of the MnDOT Library and the Minitex Document Delivery area and MLAC (Minnesota Library Access Center) Cavern at the University of Minnesota
“Each individual library cannot collect everything. Filling these gaps from our partner libraries is one of the benefits of transportation libraries networking. Our customers and ultimately our agencies benefit from this relationship-building.” – Sheila Hatchell, MnDOT Library Director
About Transportation Knowledge Networks
Transportation knowledge networks (TKNs) are organized groups of transportation libraries and others that collaborate to share their information resources and improve information access. There are currently three regional TKNs in the United States. The ultimate goal of sharing resources and working together cooperatively is to help transportation practitioners find information they need, when they need it—saving time and money, and getting better results for their organizations. The MTKN’s DOT State Stats is one example of a collaborative tool developed by TKN members.
A few topics emerged as common themes for members:
- How to value library services: Sheila Hatchell from the MnDOT Library shared her recent experiences with developing a valuation methodology. The Library Connectivity Pooled Fund study is considering a proposal for multiple libraries to conduct valuation studies. Last year, the Library Connectivity and Development Pooled Fund Study developed Proving Your Library’s Value: A Toolkit for Transportation Librarians (PDF), led by members A.J. Million (formerly of Missouri DOT), Sheila Hatchell, and Roberto Sarmiento (head of the Northwestern University Transportation Library). This is a terrific resource for all libraries to use in developing their own valuation studies.
- Data curation: The ubiquity of data, large size of data sets, and stronger requirements for data management plans for federal research grants mean that skills in data management and curation are more important than ever. Librarians can help researchers understand and comply with open data requirements as well as help our organizations manage data. Leighton Christiansen of Iowa DOT will take the lead to assist TKN members in this area.
- TKN planning: The National Transportation Library and the AASHTO RAC TKN Task Force are working with the regional TKNs and the Library Connectivity and Development Pooled Fund Study to develop a national transportation knowledge network. (See the business plan for TKNs: NCHRP Report 643: Implementing Transportation Knowledge Networks)
A research implementation project could provide MnDOT with a new set of tools to help combat a major source of bridge failure.
The MnDOT Bridge Office is testing several new methods of monitoring bridge scour — erosion that occurs around bridge piers and abutments during high water-flow events like floods. Acting Waterway Engineer Nicole Danielson-Bartelt said the project’s goal is to be able to monitor scour-critical bridges remotely rather than sending maintenance personnel out on the water during difficult or hazardous conditions.
“There are a number of bridges that are pretty difficult to monitor, especially during high water events,” she said. “Typically, you need to get out on a boat and do either sonar readings or drop weights. It’s dangerous work to be out on the water during those types of events unless you have the right training.”
The project will evaluate several different monitoring technologies, including continuous monitoring equipment like tilt meters and active sonar. The sonar systems, which allows continuous stream bed and water surface elevation data to be transmitted to a website for graphical display, could provide benefits that go beyond monitoring individual bridges.
“The ability to collect continuous, long-term data could help engineers understand short term scour-fill and long term aggradation-degradation cycles,” said Solomon Woldeamlak, a Bridge Office hydraulic engineer. He added that the data can be used to calibrate existing methods of estimating scour at bridges.
Other devices being tested include “float-out” devices, which are buried in the sand around the abutment and send out a signal only if washed to the surface by a scour. Danielson-Bartelt said these non-continuous monitoring devices might be appropriate for bridges where installing permanent sonar is not advisable due to the presence of debris that could damage the equipment.
Monitoring equipment has been installed at two locations: the Highway 43 Winona bridge over the Mississippi River and the Highway 14 Mankato bridge over the Minnesota River. A final report on the project is expected in late 2014/early 2015. You can learn more about some of the products that are being tested on the website of ETI Instrument Systems, Inc., which provided the equipment.
MnDOT Research Services is excited to announce the launch of Accelerator, our new research newsletter.
The bimonthly publication will focus on bringing readers the latest news from MnDOT’s research program. Each issue will highlight recent transportation research results, along with photos, feature stories and a calendar of upcoming events.
Accelerator is geared specifically toward transportation practitioners. It features short summaries of research projects, with links and other resources to help professionals learn more about areas in which they have a particular interest. The ultimate goal is to help bridge the gap between research and implementation by transferring knowledge to those who can put it to work in the field.
Much like Catalyst, the excellent newsletter produced by CTS, Accelerator will be available both in print and online editions. The first issue is scheduled to be released Tuesday, Sept. 3. To subscribe or to learn more, visit our website.
MnDOT Research Services recently released its 2013 request for proposals. If you have any kind of direct interest in transportation research in Minnesota, chances are you might have known that already. But those with more of a general curiosity might be interested to see the list of research need statements from the RFP, as they provide a nice preview of the next round of potential MnDOT research projects.
As you can see, some are of a highly technical nature. (It’s safe to say that a study on “PCC Pavement Thickness Variation Versus Observed Pavement Distress” would be of interest mainly to engineers.) Others, however, like “The Economic Impact of Bicycling in Minnesota,” might have a broader appeal. In any case, it’s a fascinating glimpse at the myriad of issues that MnDOT is attempting to address through research and innovation.
Here’s the list of research need statements from the 2013 RFP, broken down by category:
- Weights and Measurements for Verification of High Organic Soils
- Automated flocculation dosing rates based on real-time turbidity and flow monitoring
Materials and Construction
- PCC Pavement Thickness Variation Versus Observed Pavement Distress
- Evaluation of Recycled Aggregates Test Section Performance
- Design Guideline for Stabilization of Unpaved Shoulder—Phase I (Synthesis study)
- Optimal RAP Content for Minnesota Gravel Roads
- Modernizing Road Construction Plans and Documentation
- Alternate Design Methods to Renew Lightly Traveled Paved Roads
- Full Depth Reclamation (FDR) for Urban and Suburban Street Application
- Prevention of Stripping Under Chip Seals
- Bio-Fog Seal Evaluation
- Understanding and Communicating the Tradeoffs Associated with Urban Roadway Design
- Traffic Impacts of Bike Lanes
- The Economic Impact of Bicycling in Minnesota
- Coordination of Inter-City Multimodal Investments
Policy and Planning
- Methods for Evaluating the Economic Development Potential of Transportation Projects
- Barriers to Right-of-Way Acquisition and Recommendations for Change
Traffic and Safety
- Evaluation of Intersection Conflict Warning Systems
- Dynamic Traffic Assignment (DTA) Mesoscopic Travel Model
- Driver Performance with Future Warning Sign Delivery
- Evaluation of Safety and Mobility of Two-Lane Roundabouts
- Safety study of 35W improvements done under UPA project
- Development of a Queue Warning System Utilizing ATM Infrastructure
In 2010, MnDOT began a three-year long, $67 million repair and upgrade project on I-35 in Duluth. Dubbed the “Mega Project,” it created a serious disruption for Duluth-area commuters. To help mitigate the impact, the Duluth Transit Authority stepped up its bus services, offering free rides in newly established bus-only express lanes as well as access to new park-and-ride lots and various other enticements. Perhaps not surprisingly, many area residents took advantage of their new transit options to avoid construction-related travel delays. But what’s really interesting is what happened after the construction ended.
As described in a recently published MnDOT/University of Minnesota study, commuters who started taking the bus to avoid traffic caused by the construction ended up continuing to ride the bus even after the construction ended. Researchers surveyed riders during and after the 2010 and 2011 construction seasons and found that, even after bus fares went back to normal levels, only 15 percent of the new bus users switched back to driving. Researchers concluded that once riders developed a habit of using transit, the habit tended to stick.
The report author sums up the phenomenon quite nicely in her executive summary:
Human beings are creatures of habit. Most of us travel the same route every day to the same destination. Sometimes, however, something comes along to push us to examine our habits and possibly change them. A major highway construction project can be such an event. (…) This provides a very good opportunity to examine our travel patterns and possibly change our habitual modes.
Of course, this change didn’t just happen on its own. As the technical summary notes, the DTA marketed its services aggressively during this period. (The above photo is just one example.) The study also noted that the elimination of expanded bus services in the winter had a negative impact on ridership.
Geotextiles are synthetic polymer materials used to improve the performance of roadways. As discussed in this 2011 technical summary, geotextiles facilitate filtration and water drainage, improve the integrity and functioning of base materials, and provide a stable construction platform over soft or wet soils. These improvements can benefit both the cost-efficiency and longevity of pavements.
Geosynthetic materials have been used throughout Minnesota, and can be found in both reconstructed and new roadway projects. The use of geotextiles as a separator layer under concrete overlays, however, has had limited documentation in Minnesota and other cold weather climates. MnROAD‘s recent dedication of several test cells to this purpose will determine the performance of this application of geotextiles, with the goal of improving its applications on other Minnesota roadways.
The new test sections, designated as Cells 140 and 240, consist of a very thin, 3-inch concrete overlay over an existing 7-inch concrete pavement constructed 20 years ago. Some unique features of the design include the use of a fiber-reinforced concrete mix, two different thicknesses of the nonwoven geotextile, and the use of a special type of glue, rather than nails, to fasten it to the existing concrete before paving.
The fabric and fiber used in the concrete mix were supplied through a public-private partnership with Propex Geotextile Systems. The results of this study, along with other unbonded overlays constructed at MnROAD and around the country, will be incorporated into a new national pooled fund project — TPF 5-(269) — led by MnDOT. This project will develop an improved mechanistic design procedure for unbonded overlays.
A second application being demonstrated at MnROAD is the use of a geosynthetic drainage system under several dowel bar baskets in new concrete pavement test section. Minnesota has historically used a dense-graded base layer under concrete pavements to provide a stable foundation and construction platform. However, this material drains very slowly, and traps moisture within the joints, leading eventually to significant distress (See Effect of Drainage on the Performance of Concrete Pavement Joints in Minnesota.) This application will compare the use of the geotextile drainage material placed under both sealed and unsealed joints, as well as a control joint without the drainage material.