Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Congressional Transportation Status Report

Freight, Rail and Waterways


Freight, Rail and Waterways

The Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations improves the safety and performance of the state’s multimodal freight transportation system by ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations, planning, and delivering freight infrastructure projects, and implementing other strategies to advance freight system mobility and access.


Regional Freight Study

As the last of six regional freight studies suggested by the 2005 Minnesota Freight Plan, the Southeast Minnesota study identifies the unique industrial makeup and commercial transportation issues of District 6 and the surrounding area. The region provides about 25% of the state’s agricultural output, but also is a significant region for manufacture, food processing, medical technology, energy, and mining. This corner of the state is the gateway to the nation through major railroad connections, interstates, and the Mississippi River. This is enhanced by an unusually robust and healthy logistics industry, major river crossings, and good growth linked to Wisconsin, Iowa, and export markets. Intermodal improvements, waterways policy, and coordination of local road uses are all indicated to provide a better transportation future for this key region. Study is expected to be completed by July 2013.

Southeastern Minnesota Freight Rail Capacity Study

The Southeastern Minnesota Freight Rail Capacity Study is a federally funded study examining freight rail capacity in and around Rochester, Minn. MnDOT is conducting an environmental analysis of the alternatives to accommodate future freight rail traffic in the area. Alternatives include improvements to existing infrastructure and bypass alternatives. This is the first step in completing a NEPA-compliant environmental review so federal funds may be used on possible future projects. Total project cost is $541,112, with 90 percent FRA funds and 10 percent Olmsted County funds. The study is expected to be completed by June 2013.

Freight Rail Economic Development (FRED) Study

The 2012 State Legislature directed MnDOT and the Department of Employment and Economic Development to study ways to promote and enhance business development for companies able to use rail freight services, including expansion or siting in Minnesota on rail. Market research, a review of peer state activities, a program and policy evaluation, and a shipper’s toolkit are all tasked to the selected consultant. Project scoping and outreach began in July 2012, and consultant procurement was performed in November-December 2012. A status report was given to the Legislature on Jan. 15, 2012, and a final draft report is due by Sept. 1, 2013.

Super Haul Corridors

MnDOT is currently pursuing the development of designated Super Haul Corridors. The intent of Super Haul Corridor designation is to preserve and enhance roadways for the movement of various over-size/over-weight permitted loads, such as wind turbine blades and tower sections throughout the state.


Minnesota Statewide Comprehensive Freight and Passenger Rail Plan

The Minnesota Statewide Comprehensive Freight and Passenger Rail Plan, completed in February 2010, provides an overall vision for effective utilization of the state’s freight rail network and its future development. One purpose was to ensure that efficient, competitive services will be available to rail customers and that freight access to local and global markets is enhanced. In addition, the plan identifies priority rail corridors, programs, and projects that will offer effective improvements or expansion for passenger travel in and out of Minnesota.

Southern Rail Corridor

MnDOT is partnering with Olmsted County to conduct a congressionally appropriated alternatives analysis of freight rail impacts and potential corridor and mitigation alternatives along the DM&E railroad in Rochester. The study will identify reasonable options that could be advanced for further study and selection of a preferred alternative in an Environmental Impact Statement.

Highway / Rail at-Grade Crossing Program

Railroad Projects in MnDOT District 6
Number of locations Project type Amount
10 2013 grade crossing safety improvements $2,525,874


Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Programs

Section 130 Program – The Section 130 Program provides federal funding for upgrades to highway-rail grade crossings throughout the State. Funding is available for projects on all public roadways.

High Speed Rail (HSR) – The FRA has provided limited funding for highway-rail grade crossings in the designated high speed rail corridor from LaCrosse to Minneapolis along the Mississippi River.

Statewide Programs

Antiquated Equipment Program – The antiquated equipment program is intended to provide funding to replace existing obsolete highway-rail grade crossing active warning devices (flashing lights and gates). Funding is provided from state General Obligation bonds.

Grade Crossing Safety Account Program (GCSA) – State Patrol fines are used to fund smaller projects to enhance safety at highway-rail grade crossings. Projects include circuitry upgrades, minor roadway geometric changes, vegetation removal and LED light replacement.

Regulatory Program – The State of Minnesota issues Commissioner’s Orders for the creation of new grade crossings, vacated grade crossings and stop/yield orders at grade crossings. In addition, the state administers a track inspection program in conjunction with the FRA.

Minnesota Rail Service Improvement

The Minnesota Rail Service Improvement Program provides funding to railroads and rail users to improve railroad shipper access in the state. Funding has been used recently on rehabilitation of deteriorating rail lines, extension of rail sidings, and construction of rail loading facilities (grain storage bins, fertilizer storage, warehouses).

Ports and Waterways

Minnesota Statewide Ports and Waterways Plan

Minnesota has a significant transportation asset in its navigable waterways and commercial ports, supporting regional and international trade on the Great Lakes and the Upper Mississippi River system. Key industries in the state are dependent on low-cost, efficient, and readily available water transportation, including energy, construction, iron ore, and agriculture. Since 1996 MnDOT has been actively engaged in supporting public access to the river and lake freight port system through facility upgrades by administering the State-funded Port Development Assistance Program.

MnDOT is currently developing a statewide ports and waterways plan.  The Plan will document current port and shipping information; catalogue the extent and condition of infrastructure, including access between dockside, roads, and rail; assess ongoing needs and their impacts; and recommend policy and programmatic changes to improve the economic benefits of this transportation network for Minnesota, its businesses, and its communities. Study completion is expected by June 30, 2013.

Port Development Assistance Program

MnDOT provides technical support, coordination with ports and the Army Corps of Engineers, and financial assistance for improving port access and facilities. Improvements include: road and rail connections and dock and warehouse capital investment. This program is funded through state of Minnesota appropriations.

  • Red Wing Port Authority 
    Description: Reface Sheet Piling on Municipal Dock Wall 
    Construction time: June 2013- November 2014 
    Total construction cost = $ 291,300
    Total State Cost = $ 233,040
    Estimated State cost in FY 2013 = $ 0 
    Estimated State cost in FY 2014 = $ 133,040
    Estimated State cost in FY 2015 = $ 100,000
  • Winona Port Authority 
    Description: Rehabilitate old dock area for truck staging 
    Construction time: December 2012 - November 2014 
    Total Construction cost = $400,000
    Total State Cost = $ 320,000
    Estimated State cost in FY 2013 = $ 120,000
    Estimated State cost in FY 2014 = $ 200,000
  • Existing projects not completed as of March 6, 2012
    • Winona Port Authority 
      Description: Construct new municipal harbor dock 
      Construction time: June 2011 - June 2012 
      Total construction cost = $ 1,500,000
      Total State Cost  = $ 1,200,000
      State cost in FY 2011 = $ 30,582
      Estimated State Cost in FY 2012 = $ 965,362

Actual Total construction cost came in under budget and total State cost = $995,944

Total Estimated District 6 (Winona) State cost in FY 2012 = $ 965,362
Total Estimated District 6 (Winona) State cost in FY 2013 = $ 120,000
Total Estimated District 6 (Winona and Red Wing) State cost in FY 2014 = $ 333,040
Total Estimated District 6 (Red Wing) State cost in FY 2015 = $ 100,000

Commercial Vehicle Operations

The Motor Carrier unit of OFCVO implements and administers Minnesota laws and federal regulations governing the for‑hire and private motor carrier industry in Minnesota.  It works with motor carriers and other commercial transportation providers to enhance the safety and security of their operations and to improve their compliance with safety and hazardous material regulations.  The Motor Carrier unit conducts reviews of regulated commercial transportation providers and shippers to ensure compliance with safety and hazardous materials regulations; evaluate applications and issue credentials for interstate and intrastate motor carriers and shippers who meet the state’s safety and insurance requirements; provides technical assistance, educational outreach materials and training (to include online training) to commercial vehicle operators, shippers and others to improve transportation safety, efficiency and productivity; and, evaluates applications and issue single trip and annual permits authorizing movement of oversize/overweight loads on state highways and interstate system within Minnesota.