November 2013 Catalyst

November 2013
County transportation agencies face many challenges, not the least of which are declining resources and rising expenses. The public is typically unaware of these road-funding challenges—and therefore not engaged in the necessary decision-making process surrounding local road funding and service levels. To help overcome this communication barrier, University of Minnesota researchers developed a better understanding of the knowledge gaps surrounding local transportation funding, created a public engagement tool, and conducted direct interventions to begin engaging the public.
Major American cities get a report card each year about their mobility, focusing chiefly on how fast motorists can drive on their highways. In coming years, however, cities will have another way of understanding their transportation systems thanks to the work of the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota. The new Observatory will go beyond congestion rankings to focus on accessibility: a measure that examines both land use and the transportation system.
During a winter storm, rural landscapes and strong winds often combine to create big snow drifts and blowing snow that can strand motorists and reduce driver visibility. This winter, MnDOT is taking action to prevent these conditions with the help of a new snow fence payment calculator tool developed by U of M researchers. The tool is designed to analyze the benefits and savings of creating living snow fences—such as standing corn rows—in specific locations and compare that with the cost of managing blowing and drifting snow on the roadway.
For the past year, researchers have been studying how the innovative engineering marvel spanning the Mississippi near downtown Minneapolis is aging. In more formal terms, the researchers have been focused on characterizing the time-dependent behavior of the post-tensioned, precast concrete box-girder bridge. The researchers are monitoring nearly 500 sensors installed during construction of the bridge for strain, load distribution, vibrations, temperature, and the overall movement of the bridge. Other sensors help keep an eye on the bridge's security and control automatic anti-icing and lighting systems.
Publication Credits 

Publisher/Director: Laurie McGinnis

Managing Editor: Pamela Snopl

Editors: Christine Anderson, Amy Friebe, Michael McCarthy

Designer: Cadie Adhikary

Student Intern: Nicola Harger

Freelance Writer: Megan Tsai