U of M researchers join new Freight Mobility Research Institute

University of Minnesota Image of vehicles driving in trafficresearchers at the Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO) will work to improve the mobility of people and goods across the nation as part of the new Freight Mobility Research Institute, a Tier 1 University Transportation Center funded in 2016.

Led by Florida Atlantic University (FAU), the Institute will receive $1.4 million per year from the United States Department of Transportation for five years. A combined match from state and private-sector sources will bring the award to more than $10 million in total. In addition to FAU and the U of M, Institute members include the University of Florida, Portland State University, Hampton University, the University of Memphis, and Texas A&M University (College Station).


U of M researchers have been participating in the University Transportation Center program since 1991, when the Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute was established at the U.

With the primary goal of strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness, the Institute will address critical issues affecting the planning, design, operation, and safety of the nation’s intermodal freight transportation system. Initial work will focus on improving freight mobility through information technology, freight network modeling and operations, intermodal logistics, and freight and supply chain sustainability.

“Efficient and safe freight movement is inextricably linked to the economic vitality of a local area, state, region, and even beyond,” said FAU’s Evangelos I. Kaisar, Institute director. “We are motivated to embrace innovative research projects, to train current and future transportation leaders and workforce, and to engage with industry to enhance collaboration between agencies.”

U of M researchers John Hourdos, MTO director, and Chen-Fu Liao, senior systems engineer, will lend their expertise in freight demand forecasting, freight operations, modeling and simulation, intelligent transportation systems, and sustainability and planning to the Institute. Hourdos will also serve as the Institute’s assistant director for research. In this role, he will be responsible for the Institute’s overall research activities and serve on the executive committee.

Hourdos and Liao will join other experts from the Institute’s partner universities in efforts to promote smart cities, improve multimodal connections, improve system integration and security, conduct data modeling, and develop analytical tools to optimize freight movements that improve efficiency.

Several of the Institute’s proposed research activities draw on the expertise of MTO researchers and on projects previously conducted at the U of M. These activities include investigating freight signal priority for intermodal facilities in urban areas, identifying potential causes of truck bottlenecks, and developing a multimodal/intermodal freight transportation performance metric.


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