Cities and counties depend on stormwater retention ponds to protect water quality in lakes and streams. New research sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board has identified cost-effective methods for ensuring pollutants remain in pond sediment and are not released into other bodies of water.Continue reading Pond Maintenance Strategies to Retain Phosphorus
New tools will help local road engineers reliably estimate the curing time of a cold in-place recycling (CIR) layer. Researchers identified factors that affect asphalt curing when a CIR method is used to know when pavement is sufficiently hardened, which will minimize delays in road construction and reopening.Continue reading Increasing Cold In-Place Recycling Efficiency for Pavement Rehabilitation
New guidance and a process framework will help local agency engineers with varying levels of expertise and resources benefit from the experiences of their peers. Using these tools, engineers can take manageable, proactive steps to prioritize investments that maintain and preserve transportation networks.Continue reading Putting Research Into Practice: Decision-Making Tools for Roadway Management
In search of enhanced pavement damage detection practices, researchers investigated two innovative additives to asphalt binders: graphite nanoplatelets and taconite concentrates. They also examined the ability of microwave energy to restore subsurface cracking.Continue reading Innovative Materials and Technologies for Sustainable Pavement Infrastructure
Using an earlier lane departure warning system (LDWS) that employs standard GPS data rather than expensive cameras or maps, Minnesota researchers have enhanced and refined the system, moving closer to an affordable product to warn drivers about dangerous lane drift and approaching curves.Continue reading Improved In-Vehicle Lane Departure Warning System Approaches Commercial Use
In recent years, many U.S. cities have been installing separated bicycle lanes (SBLs) as part of their nonmotorized transportation networks. SBLs are bicycle pathways that employ paint and a vertical element as a buffer to separate motor vehicle traffic from bicycle traffic. They reduce crash risk, increase safety and comfort, and encourage more people to use bicycles as transportation.Continue reading Separated Bike Lanes: Filling the Gaps in Design Guidance
The Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) has added pavement condition forecasting technology to an existing, web-based roadway inventory tool that will enable counties to generate low-cost maps and reports that help them prioritize their work by showing how roadway conditions will look under different construction scenarios for decades to come.Continue reading Low-Cost Pavement Condition Forecasting Software Eases Local Road Planning
Complete Streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities, regardless of their mode of transportation. A newly funded research project aims to demonstrate the economic and non-economic benefits of Complete Streets in the city of Richfield, which has been active in reconstructing several previously vehicle-oriented roads to allow for safe travel by those walking, cycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods.
By measuring the impacts of pedestrian- and bike-related improvements in Richfield, this Minnesota Local Road Research Board-funded study hopes to help guide future transportation investments for building sustainable and safe urban environments.
This analysis will include four closely related steps:
- First, University of Minnesota researchers will select suitable improvement sites in Richfield to study and collect project information, including project maps, description of complete street features and GIS files at the parcel level before and after the project.
- Identify economic and measurable non-economic benefits. The university will work with the City of Richfield to identify possible economic benefits (such as increased property value) and other measurable benefits (such as public health benefits associated with pedestrian or cycling activities) of the Complete Streets projects.
- Estimate economic benefits, such as increased housing value or as additional business activities.
- Lastly, researchers will quantify and monetize non-economic benefits, such as public health or environmental benefits related to pedestrian or cycling activities. Data about benefit indicators will be collected through survey or interview. These benefits will then be monetized using common value parameters identified from the literature.
A new study by the Local Road Research Board (LRRB) shows that transportation investments within a county can increase the local employment rate, while investments in trunk highways surrounding a county can also enhance county and regional employment.
The goal of this project was to quantify the relationship between transportation investment and economic development as it is represented in data showing the effect of the investment on job creation in counties.
“The entire project was new and useful. It provided answers to questions about the benefits for counties building local roads, beyond getting traffic from here to there,”
said Bruce Hasbargen, County Engineer, Beltrami County.
As federal resources for transportation development have declined, state departments of transportation and local organizations have needed to be selective in funding transportation projects, choosing those that generate the greatest local return on investment.
Transportation engineers and planners understand the positive effects new roadway projects have on local and regional economies. But to demonstrate these effects to elected officials who develop the budgets—as well as to the tax-paying public— they have needed supporting quantitative data.
Previous LRRB research has produced data linking transportation investments to increases in local property values in Minnesota counties. More analysis and information were required about the possible links between local transportation investment and other economic indicators, such as job creation.
What Did We Do?
After an initial literature search, researchers followed the methodology of the earlier study by gathering and examining data from several sources. The Minnesota County Finances Report yielded investment information. Since 1985, this report has collected information about grants and expenditures for county-managed local roads. MnDOT’s Trunk Highway Construction and Maintenance Costs provided data related to these expenditures collected from 1995 to 2012.
To determine transportation investment effects on job creation and employment, researchers used several comprehensive data sources to measure employment across the state and in counties: the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (which reports overall employment); County Business Patterns (which reports private employment only, based on business register data); and data from the Minnesota Department of employment and Economic Development.
Researchers combined data on transportation investment, business patterns and socioeconomic conditions in Minnesota counties from 1995 to 2010. The data included the number of county business establishments, jobs in Minnesota counties by sectors and the amount of the annual payroll. Investigators also examined spatial (GIS-map based) data from counties.
By linking the data of county business patterns to expenditures on local roads and trunk highways, researchers performed statistical analyses and created an econometric model to address these questions:
• How does transportation investment affect the employment rate, aggregate employment (number of jobs) and annual payrolls in Minnesota counties?
• Which type of transportation investment—trunk highways or local roads—is more effective in job creation?
• Does the link between transportation investment and job creation differ between metropolitan and rural counties?
The model’s design controlled for unrelated factors that would affect employment rates, including population, age structure, population density, educational attainment and level of urbanization.
What Did We Learn?
The literature search showed evidence of connections between transportation projects and local economic development across many decades and countries, although the results were varied and not predictive.
The data analysis found that long-term transportation investments contribute to employment in Minnesota counties, including several positive and statistically significant relationships:
• A 1 percent increase in local road capital within a county is associated with a 0.007 percent increase in the employment rate in the county, holding constant various socioeconomic factors.
• A 1 percent increase in trunk highway capital in surrounding areas is associated with a 0.008 percent increase in the employment rate of a county, again holding constant various socioeconomic factors.
The impacts are significant but not substantial, which researchers say may be explained by the fact that most Minnesota counties are rural and already have relatively high employment rates. Moreover, not all areas are positively affected by these investments.
The overall findings are largely driven by rural areas, while the evidence for metropolitan and micropolitan areas is mixed.
The results suggest that in Minnesota it would be more effective to invest in rural areas compared to urban areas as far as employment growth is concerned.
“As federal transportation money decreases, state and local agencies must make difficult policy decisions with diminishing budgets. This research provides quantifiable data about the local and regional benefits of new roads, which agencies can use to promote and support transportation projects,” said Zhirong (Jerry) Zhao, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The results of this project provide an internal decision-making tool for local agencies. They also offer quantitative data in support of transportation investment to convey to elected officials and the tax-paying public. Although no follow-up research is currently planned, many further studies of this type are feasible. For example, studies could evaluate associative effects of transportation investment on other socioeconomic factors, such as sales tax bases, small business development, workforce specialization and public education.
This post pertains to LRRB-produced Report 2018-04, “Transportation Investment and Job Creation in Minnesota Counties,” published January 2018. The full report can be accessed at mndot.gov/research/reports/2018/201804.pdf.
Many local agencies in Minnesota lack funding to construct and maintain all the bridges in their roadway network. One way to lower costs is to reduce the number of bridges.
In Minnesota, some township bridges are on roads with low usage that have alternative accesses for nearby residents, but local officials are reluctant to remove the bridges.
To identify possible changes to how redundant and low-use bridges are identified and removed in Minnesota, the Local Road Research Board conducted a transportation research synthesis, “Local Bridge Removal Policies and Programs,” that explores how other states make bridge removal decisions.
Fifteen state DOTs responded to a survey about their processes, with varying levels of state oversight identified for bridge removal decisions. Researchers also examined funding and incentives offered by some DOTs to local agencies for bridge removal, as well as criteria for considering bridge removal.
A literature search of bridge design manuals, inspection manuals and bridge programs was also conducted to identify related policies and programs.
Read the TRS to learn more about the various bridge removal policies and procedures in place in Minnesota and other states.