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 Initiative

The 2011 Metropolitan Freight Study Initiative identified significant industry trends, highlighted commercial logistics issues, and suggested improvements in goods movement and for public agencies to better work together. The Freight office is currently pursuing the developing of project to facilitate the movement of freight impact the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.

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.


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.

Highway / Rail at-Grade Crossing Program

Railroad Projects in MnDOT Metro District
Number of locations Project type Amount
25 2013 grade crossing safety improvements $2,071,279


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.

  • St Paul Port Authority 
    Description: Rehabilitate 790 feet of dock wall adjacent to Aggregate Industries at Barge Terminal #1 
    Construction time: June 2013-November 2014 
    Total construction cost = $1,150,000
    Total State Cost = $ 795,000 
    Estimated State cost in FY2013 = $ -0-
    Estimated State cost in FY 2014 = $ 500,000
    Estimated State cost in FY 2015 = $ 295,000

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.

Truck Parking Availability Study

The Truck Parking Availability Study is a partnership with University of Minnesota and the American Transportation and Research Institute that will develop an automated truck stop management system that can determine the number of occupied parking spaces. The system uses a network of camera’s to monitor truck parking availability at three MnDOT Safety Rest Areas and one commercial truck stop along the I-94 corridor west of the Twin Cities Metro. Information will notify truck drivers and carriers via a website, in-cab messages and variable message displays a few miles ahead of the parking facility. This study is expected to be completed by December 2013.

Twin Cities Truck GPS Study

A research initiative with U of M Engineering will study every segment of the NHS in the Twin Cities Metro Area and will: combine truck GPS data with existing MnDOT truck volume classification technology to determine truck volumes; understand truck volumes in relation to congestion; develop performance measures for travel delay and reliability. Work on this study is expected to be completed in early 2014.