Log Movement in the Superior Region – Rate and Capacity Based Analysis of Modal Shares – Alger County

SPONSOR:  ALGER COUNTY

PI:  Pasi Lautala

Project Period:  01.01.18-12.31.19

Task 1: Log and non-log product movement data collection

This study will use actual log movement data (both by truck and by train) by the participating forest products companies, as well as train routes and schedules from CN (and potentially E&LS) as a backbone for the spatial simulation model of the region. The main activities of the task 1 include log and non-log movement data collection. For the non-log movements, the main emphasis is in collecting data on origin-destination (O-D) pairs, both from the forest products companies and from the results of NRTC study.

Task 2: Development of GIS network and yard/siding/mill constraints

We are expecting the GIS (Geographical Information System) maps of truck/rail movements to be the first main outputs from our study. These electronic maps developed based on the log movement data will show not only the actual locations and capacities of yards and sidings, but the transportation infrastructure of study area.

Task 3: Log /non-log movement data reduction/cleaning (as necessary) and conversion to a common format

In this task, we will clean up and convert the log movements to a common format. We will identify the log volumes through each O-D pair, including volumes through rail sidings/yards. Data collected in the previous tasks will be collated and organized with the development of commodity flows. Commodity flows will provide the movements of goods (log) in the study area and will be the basic dataset for average daily/monthly O-D matrix of log movements.

Task 4: Development of operational constraints (rail) and operational model

The studies on the freight mode choice, especially the competition between truck and rail are becoming critical to improve the efficiency of freight transportation system. In this task, we will investigate observed/unobserved factors influencing freight mode choice, including truck and rail. The average daily/monthly O-D matrix of log movements in the previous task will utilize to develop log freight mode choice model.

Task 5: Development of “non-log” product movement graphics, data tables and maps

In the same way as in Task 2 and 3 for a log product, this task identifies the “non-log” volume through each O-D pair and develops movement tables based on data collected in previous Task 1. The task includes generating volume matrices and GIS maps on the movements to identify opportunities.

Task 6: 1st simulation runs and development of results

In this task, we will develop the first simulation model that seeks to optimize log transportation considering the operational constraints of rail. This model will analyze log movements (from several companies/mills) by rail and truck, and look at where and how opportunities may be created to improve the business case for CN or a short line operator to provide cost effective service. One potential example is identifying locations where larger shipment sizes can be concentrated at once. Figure 1 presents the framework of the spatial model, using all processes from Tasks 1 to 5 as its main components.

Task 7: Industry/sponsor review of results

Progress report will be provided to get industry/sponsor reviews of the optimization and non-log movement results. This report will include the results of five tasks in the phase 1 (from Task 1 to Task 5) as well as the results derived from the first operational simulation model of task 6.

Task 8: 2nd simulation runs and analysis of additional logistics considerations.

We will run the second simulation and analyze on the car demand, effects on log trucks, opportunities for reduced peaking and consolidated rail yards. The comments/opinions from the first review will be reflected in the second simulation runs.

Task 9: Industry sponsor/review of results and final report

Pasi Lautala
Pasi Lautala
Kuilin Zhang
Kuilin Zhang

 

Log Movement in the Superior Region – Rate and Capacity Based Analysis of Modal Shares – MDOT

SPONSOR:  MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

PI:  Pasi Lautala

Project Period:  01.01.18-12.31.19

Dr. Pasi Lautala will provide coordination of the project and data collection from industry stakeholders.

Dr. Kuilin Zhang will lead the operational constraint and model development for log transportation model. He will also lead the analytical tasks related to the model, supported by the graduate research assistants.

Pasi Lautala
Pasi Lautala
Kuilin Zhang
Kuilin Zhang

MDOT Statewise Passenger and Freight Travel Demand Model

SPONSOR:  RESOURCE SYSTEMS GROUP, INC.

PI:  Kuilin Zhang

Project Period:  10.01.16-09.30.18

Dr. Zhang is an advisor for the project on freight modeling and OD elimination using traffic counts.  This project develops a statewide passenger and freight travel demand model for Michigan, including data assessment, model specification development, model development, model calibration and validation, forecasting future years, model documentation, and training.

Kuilin Zhang
Kuilin Zhang

Develop and Implement a Freeze Thaw Model Based Seasonal Load Restriction Decision Support Tool

SPONSOR:  MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

PI:  Zhen Liu

Spring (or Seasonal) Load Restriction (SLR) policies that limit the axle loads of trucks have been implemented in many states of the United States and other countries to minimize costly roadway damage that occurs in seasonally frozen areas during the annual spring thaw and strength recovery period (Zarrillo et al., 2012). This is because concrete and asphalt, though look indestructible, can actually be quite fragile in late winter as frost comes out of the ground (County Road Association of Michigan).

The overall objective of the project is to establish a thawing model and a process for setting and removing seasonal load restrictions in a manner that will give industry the most amount of time to prepare for the restrictions and minimize the time to lift the restrictions based on the MDOT Project RC 1619. The overall objective will be accomplished through a series of objectives and tasks leveraging existing research, technology, and resources that MDOT already has in place.

  1. Evaluate existing thaw/freeze depth prediction models, practice for SLR in state DOTs and MDOT’s needs and available resources, and based on that, determine if existing thaw depth models suffice for application as a decision support tool for Michigan or if a refined model would be prudent.
  2. Identify the type, sources, and format of the soil and weather information used for analysis by the decision support tool.
  3. Building on this project and the research of RC 1619, develop a thaw depth model th!it utilizes the existing data sources in Objective 2.
  4. Identify locations for potential virtual Road Weather Information System (RWIS) sites and collect necessary data to implement those locations.
  5. Develop a user friendly decision support tool that could be easily utilized by public and private sector in estimating potential thaw conditions and setting of SLRs for any location on the MDOT road network.
  6. Recommend processes for predicting the time to post and remove SLR signs to protect the pavement structures from excessive damage during the spring thaw season.
  7. Identify opportunities to collect, present, and apply data and develop models to refine pavement designs.
  8. Develop professional training materials and course for training MDOT staff in the use of the decision support tool.
Zhen Liu
Zhen Liu
Stan Vitton
Min Wang
Min Wang

Log Movement in the Superior Region – Rate and Capacity Based Analysis of Modal Shares

SPONSOR:  MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT (MDARD)

PI:  Pasi Lautala

Since the purchase of the Wisconsin Central Rail system by Canadian National (CN) operations on the small branch lines throughout the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Northern Wisconsin have seen reduced business. Starting in 2012, the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission (NRTC), formed by the economic development in the 13 counties of Northern Wisconsin as well as membership of nine of the UP’s 15 counties, has been leading an effort to not only put a spotlight on the decline, but seek solutions in collaboration with the CN. However, the effort has only been successful at keeping a spotlight on the issue.

One of the industries that have been particularly hard hit is the forest products industry. Moving logs by rail from aggregation points to the mills has been a very cost effective and safer method of moving raw material. Unfortunately, most of these movements start or end on branch lines and move below average distances to reach the mills. This doesn’t match well with the current business model for large railroads that is based on moving large blocks of cars (generally anywhere from 20-100) for fairly long distances (500+ miles). As a result, the prices CN considers profitable have been pushing logs off their rails and onto trucks.

Recent discussions by the Michigan Forest Products Council (MFPC), an industry group that includes representatives of the largest mills in the UP and Northern Wisconsin focused on the need to develop a strategy to either convince CN that a business case existed for them to get back into moving logs in the region or make a case for allowing a short line operator to take over service on the branch lines. The NRTC, who participated in the MFPC discussions, has also endorsed this strategy. Two specific steps to advance the strategy are an effort funded by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to update a previous rail study and a proposal by Michigan Technological University (MTU) to conduct a detailed analysis of the log movements to determine how a better business case can built by improving the operational movements related to where, when and how logs enter the rail system.

MTU’s study will use actual train movement data from CN and log movements data provided by the members of the Michigan Forest Products Council including a number of mills in Wisconsin, to create a spatial simulation model of the region. This model will analyze log movements (from several companies/mills) by rail and truck and look at where and how opportunities may be created to improve the business case for CN or a short line operator to provide cost effective service. One potential example is identifying locations where larger shipment sizes can be concentrated at once.

Pasi Lautala
Pasi Lautala

Impact of High-Speed Passenger Trains on Freight Train Efficiency in Shared Railway Corridors

SPONSOR: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS URBANA CHAMPAIGN

PI:  Kuilin Zhang

Michigan Tech will lead the efforts in Tasks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and will participate in all the remaining tasks.

Task 1: Literature review.
A comprehensive literature review will be conducted on existing research in railway capacity and train delay to assess the state of knowledge and to ensure that all relevant previous work is incorporated into the work to be conducted in this proposed project.

Task 2: Analytical corridor capacity model.
The core task of this research project is to develop an analytical f framework to estimate rail corridor capacity under mixed high-speed passenger traffic and regular freight traffic. The outcome will help quantify the following: how high-speed passenger trains affect the capacity of a shared railway corridor, what are the relationships among various operational and design factors (e.g. speed, headway, and siding spacing), and bow do these design factors affect the railroad capacity.

Task 3: Simulation validation.
A commercial software called Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) will be used to evaluate the effects of homogeneous and heterogeneous train operations. We will analyze train delays caused by introducing passenger trains on a single track freight network (the most common track configuration in North America). We will then validate the analytical model proposed in Task 2.

Task 4: Optimization model and design guidelines.
Based on the validated capacity model, optimization models and design guidelines (e.g. speed, headway, and infrastructure design) will be developed to maximize corridor capacity for both freight and passenger traffic. The optimization model will cope with train delays due to the knock-on effects, i.e. meet, pass, overtake, and possible delay propagation in a mixed traffic system.

Task 5: Policy development and analysis.
The proposed modeling framework will be used as the basis for policy analysis (regarding planning, management, and operations of the shared rail corridor). Several key issues such as infrastructure investment, service charge/pricing, and public subsidies (for accommodating the high-speed passenger trains) will be addressed to support decision making for both public agencies and the private sector.

Task 6: Final report.
Each individual task will be documented in a progress report. The final report will include the literature review, model development, validation, and key technical and policy findings. We will publish journal papers and make conference presentations to disseminate findings from this project.

Kuilin Zhang
Kuilin Zhang

Evaluating the Use of Operational Management Techniques for Capacity Improvements on Shared-Use Rail Corridors

SPONSOR:  NATIONAL CENTER FOR FREIGHT AND INFRASTRUCTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION

PI:  Pasi Lautala

The majority of intercity passenger and commuter rail services in the United States (U.S.) operate on the shared-use corridors with freight rail services. These types of operations tend to be challenging for efficient capacity utilization and reliability due to the high heterogeneity of trains (diversity of trains operations). In addition, the projected growth in demand for rail transportation is likely to exacerbate the situation, making efficient use of capacity a necessity for freight and passenger traffic alike. There are two main approaches to improve the capacity levels, either by applying new capital investment or by improving operational characteristics and parameters of the rail services (such as improving the trains timetables). To date, U.S. has concentrated more on the first approach while the second approach is commonly used in European practices. It would be beneficial to evaluate the main challenges and advantages of using operational management techniques to improve the capacity utilization along shared use corridors in the U.S.

This study will investigate the use of operations management techniques on selected shared use corridors (Kalamazoo – Dearborn section of the Michigan HSR corridor and Baltimore-Washington section of the Northeast Corridor). The study will be conducted by applying the European simulation packages (Railsys and/or Opentrack) as well as Rail Traffic Controller (RTC), a common simulation package in the U.S., to evaluate different traffic scenarios and operational variables at selected locations. The use of multiple simulation tools will also allow application of a hybrid approach on the operational scenarios that will be developed in collaboration with DOTs and Amtrak.

Pasi Lautala
Pasi Lautala

National University Rail Center Tier 1

SPONSOR:  MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

PI:  Pasi Lautala

The primary objective of the NU Rail Center is to improve and expand rail education, research, workforce development, and technology transfer in the US. Michigan Tech, in collaboration with its academic, industry and state partners, will work to identify important rail knowledge areas for inclusion in these activities. Under the center, the Michigan Tech team is expanding its multidisciplinary research activities from the previous NU Rail award in various areas, such as rural freight rail and multimodal transportation improvements, human factors and rail safety, infrastructure evaluation and assessment, high performance materials for railroad infrastructure preservation and renewal, and improved materials for the rail industry. Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program (RTP) director also serves as the Associate Director of Education for the consortium. Educational activities are a high priority with focus on expansion of undergraduate level funded projects and internships among other activities. On technology transfer, the main objective is to continue the development of Michigan Rail Conference.

Pasi Lautala
Pasi Lautala

Optimized Placement of Mounted Equipment within Patrol Vehicles during Side Impact Crashes

Sponsor: US Department of Justice

PI: John Hill

The primary purpose of this study is to further develop recommended safe zones for interior mounted equipment in police vehicles based on side impact crash testing. Current recommendations for the safe placement of equipment have been developed based on airbag deployment zones. These airbag deployment zones are published by vehicle manufacturers for both front and side impact airbags. The new safe mounting zones will be based not on airbag deployment, but rather on occupant trajectory during a crash.