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 Response Page - Freight Movement in Minnesota  Interview -      


These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Freight Movement  Interview of
01-30-09.
.

 
The Questions:

_3.4 average____  1.  On a scale of (0) very negative, to (5) neutral, to (10) very positive, what is your view on whether longer and heavier trucks, allowed in some states, should be allowed in Minnesota?

_7.5 average____  2.  On a scale of (0) very negative, to (5) neutral, to (10) very positive, what is your view on whether road user taxes should be changed so that heavier vehicles pay more? 

_6.1 average____  3.  On a scale of (0) very negative, to (5) neutral, to (10) very positive, what is your view whether freight-oriented rail lines in Minnesota should make room for passenger-oriented high-speed rail, commuter rail, and LRT?

_7.4 average____  4.  On a scale of (0) very negative, to (5) neutral, to (10) very positive, what is your view on the need to improve freight opportunities (truck or rail) in rural Minnesota? 

Don Fraser

This was an interesting discussion, but left me unable to answer the questions.  Is the transportation planning by the Minnesota Department of Transportation adequate to the needs of the Minnesota?  And why haven't we indexed the gas tax?

Bill Hamm (7) (6) (1) (10)

Question 1. I have no problem with these heavier trucks on roads adequate for them such as the Interstate system.

Question 2.  I tend to prefer that they pay by weight but distance may also work sufficiently. Need to see some figures.

Question 3.  I absolutely oppose subsidizing failure and stupidity. The astounding costs of establishing, operation, and maintaining commuter rail are clear and outrageous yet we continue to pour money down this rat hole. Anything that goes on rail has to have the weight to stay on that rail, if we went to a monorail system for passenger service it would be forced to become as light as possible which would greatly decrease operation costs as well as maintenance costs. Monorail would have very little impact on ground traffic, it would eliminate collisions with auto's and animals and be far more eco-friendly. Let's think smart here not stupid.

Question 4.  The plain fact is that this is to a great extent how our city neighbors are undermining rural ability to do any economic development in favor of their efforts to turn much of rural Minnesota into their private playground. By undermining infrastructure they create the self fulfilling prophecy of failure that forces us off our land and out of rural areas to find work and provide for our needs.

Keith Swenson (0) (0) (0) (10)

Jim Martin (0) (2) (0) (5)

Given the level of wear and tear, I do not feel that we should be enlarging either the length or weight of trucks. I believe we should continue to regulate the trucks with licensing and weight regulations/stations. I do not feel that rail freight should vacate  lines to passenger service; this would only put more trucks on the road. I am not aware of this need; I feel that transportation should/is a consideration of locating rural sites; are we building ethanol plants and then worrying about transportation after the fact or assuming that this is a state problem?

David Dillon (10) (10) (5) (5)

Bert Press (0) (10) (10) (5)

Chuck Slocum (5) (10) (10) (5)

We need a public-private, comprehensive transportation plan for Minnesota. I believe we undoubtedly require additional investments into Minnesota’s transportation system, but only if there are strategic and cost effective markets for the goods and people to transport.  Allowing heavier trucks without having the required roadways and building additional capacity in the rural areas without having the necessary goods and services to ship are unwise strategies. 

Marc Asch (0) (10) (10) (8) 

Roy and Blythe Thompson (2) (8) (6) (7)

David and Sharon Detert (0) (8) (6) (7)

Hans Sandbo (1.5) (9) (7.5) (6)

An alternative to individual cars, trucks needs to be encouraged, but individual cars, trucks should not be eliminated.  They need to be available but at a higher cost for maintenance to roads, etc.

  

Question  1.  Heavier trucks means more work on roads - we should move to lighter vehicles (including trucks and autos) .Railroads get the freight and people as close to where they want to go as possible then light truck, bus, auto should be used.

 

Question 2.  We should be discouraging heavier vehicles, since we (the people) need to pay for the roads they drive on.  Encourage rail. 

 

Question  3.  Long range we need to move in this direction.   Even though fossil fuel will probably be used less than currently projected if an alternative fuel (electric, other) can be used.

Question 4.  This needs to be maintained, improved however it does should not be a huge budget item.

 

David Broden (10) (7) (7) (10)

Question 1:  Minnesota must be friendly to interstate commerce and not be the cause or excuse for companies or carriers not participating in Minnesota. In the thrust to create jobs we need to be encouraging the movement of products in and out of Minnesota in the most efficient way. The longer and heavier truck is one clear signal that can be sent to industry across the nation. Further as we look to expand trade with Canada the movement to US from Canada and Canada to the US will welcome Minnesota as a gateway. If we need some form of weight compensation as a transportation tax levy to make this happen and it extends to all weights to have some sort of charge by truck weight this may be beneficial. As all states look for transportation revenue something like this may be needed in all states or as a national levy since most of these truck will be on interstates. Interstate commerce must be considered as well as intrastate commerce. 

Question  2: A weight based tax seems reasonable as discussed in item 1 above. The use of a weight based criteria should however be friendly to the industry not just another tax that suggests trucks go around Minnesota.  

Question 3:  The use of existing rail routes for high speed passenger routes should be the first consideration with the criteria that freight and commerce takes precedence in the planning since the freight drives commerce and jobs. The government and the public also have to be educated that existing rail is privately owned trackage and land and passenger routes and trains etc. will to some extent be public. Focus must be building a very positive and strong private and public understanding and partnership so that the freight and passengers can coexist or when they cannot then alternates must be considered. Cost of adapting freight lines to passengers must be either public funded or private funded with public transportation payback of some form. We cannot sacrifice the capacity, efficiency, or timeliness of the freight traffic to move people over the same lines--both need to work without conflict or impact. 

Question 4:  The response of 10 is that rural Minnesota must remain a transportation focus for movement of agriculture products to and from the rural area as well as a need to support current and expanding manufacturing and related businesses. Whether there is an immediate need or there is need for a vision of what and how to achieve the improvement is an open question and will vary with the area. There just simply needs to be a way to get products to and from the rural (lets use the word outstate rather than rural). I will also be firm that one of the causes of decline of the small and moderate size towns and cities across Minnesota and the Upper Midwest is that  the efficiency and cost of getting products to the business has not been cost effectively maintained and businesses as a result have either not always had the products or had to pay too much to be competitive and thus had to close. Transportation must be viewed as a jobs and economic development enabler across Minnesota and unfortunately for some this is not how the transportation vision is evolving. The MnDOT and other focus on a total comprehensive plan has the opportunity to address this if it is linked to quality of life, education, jobs, and the business opportunities existing and potential across Minnesota and linked to our neighboring states as well.    

Janna King (3) (9) (9) (_)

You can’t isolate this discussion from economic competitiveness.  Because of our position in the north of the country and the configuration of existing national  transportation/distribution networks we need to do some things to strengthen our competitive advantage.  There was a proposal to enhance MN competitiveness with regard to freight time/distance several years back (MIRTS).  It should be revisited.

Gordy Jacobson (5) (10 (5) (`10)

Donna Anderson (2) (8) (10) (10)

Donald H. Anderson (4) (10) (8) (5)

Again it's a problem of interstate vs. intrastate. The interstate system was originally developed to move goods and people between states. Over time it became a system of metropolitan movement. Now we are seeing the conflicts of a dual system and another federal vs. state, and metropolitan vs. rural road and rail networks. Someone has to pay for the solutions - user vs. public, or, hopefully a compromise.

Paul and Ruth Hauge (7) (9) (10) (9)

Chuck Lutz (5) (5) (9) (7)

Peter Hennessey (5) (0) (5) (10)

Let's assume the State has a duty to coordinate a transportation plan and maybe even has the power to enforce it. This is a very suspect assumption, given example after example where good intentions were mutated into grotesque failure by politics, bickering, bribery and fraud. Unfortunately this particular problem has a long history of demagoguery and backroom politics, and it's like everything else before it -- settlers vs. Indians, cowboys vs. shepherds, farmers vs. ranchers, and once again truckers vs. railroads.

Question 1. This totally depends on Minnesota's geography, of which I know little. In general multi-trailer trucks do fine over flat terrain. You can't be a roadblock along a route running through neighboring States if they allow multi-trailer trucks and MN does not. They'll just go around whenever they can. Everybody loses. On the other hand, long distance trucking is the stupidest idea in the world. The natural medium for long haul is the train, and the natural medium for short haul is the truck. Imagine if the two were able to build on their strengths and coordinate their activities.

Question 2. No, you can't charge more for service you are not providing. Build trucks-only highways and then you can charge for that. 

The problem is that in the US we simply do not build roads for durability. We build roads for the benefit of the transportation departments, the construction companies, and the politicians who take a hand in awarding construction contracts. I took a sociology course once, in which we studied the history of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which, I think, the first US "interstate" built on the model of the autobahn. The bickering started immediately about every detail of the actual construction, whether to build a truck lane, whether to charge by weight, etc. In the end, they compromised and built a poor imitation of an autobahn, and thereby set the model for the rest of the system. The simple fact is that when Germans build a road, they dig a ditch 6 feet deep, and fill it with layers of rocks and other fill of different grades and sizes to distribute the weight of the traffic, and top it with 2 feet of reinforced concrete.

I constantly harp on the theme of limiting government, at all levels, to specifically defined powers. And this is just one example. More often than not, a politician or a bureaucrat is a lawyer or some such, with no training in anything practical like economics, engineering, medicine, science, etc., etc., Yet they get off on imposing their will on people who did bother to obtain education and gain experience in the fields they work in, and they, the politicians and bureaucrats, corrupt the system by making it clear that the way to get a contract is not by demonstrating technical excellence but by making a contribution to the "right" people.

So if the State assumes the responsibility to build and maintain a system of roads, then they should build it as if they owned it. You would not build a piece of junk if you knew you'd have to replace the whole thing every few years or so. But you would if you could pass off the costs to somebody else (the tax payers) and if you could use your power of awarding contracts for political gain.

Question 3. What manner of nonsense is this? Passenger trains are much lighter than freight trains. Upgrading would come into consideration if we were talking about upgrading passenger tracks to allow freight trains on them. There may be only two reasons why freight tracks would have to be upgraded. (1) The tracks are very old and uneven, and trains have to proceed very slowly so as not to derail. (2) You might need more sidings added so trains could pass each other safely. 

But, assuming that the tracks are in good enough shape to carry freight at reasonable speeds, then dual use is a matter of scheduling, not upgrading.

Question 4. To the extent that the State might actually live up to its claimed purpose of making people's lives easier, then by all means, yes, eliminate legal and regulatory obstacles and let isolated communities define and obtain the transportation services appropriate to their needs. 

As always, I am confused by the assumptions implied in a question like this. In this day and age UPS, FedEx and others of all sizes somehow manage to pick up anywhere and deliver anywhere throughout the world, not just one State. How do they do it? Do they rely on State coordination, support or subsidies? 

Clarence Shallbetter (2) (10) (1) (4)

Question 1:  Heavier trucks might be considered if most of the cost of building roads and bridges to accommodate these weights were paid directly by these heavier trucks. In this time of declining revenues to the general fund we need to focus even more on paying for roads and all transportation services including nearly all of transit from the users and those who benefit from these facilities and services, not from general taxes used to pay for education, health and welfare.
 

Question 3:  Before we pay the railroads to use and improve their roadbeds, develop more sophisticated signaling systems, and do more grade separation of the rail bed and road crossings there needs to be a clear demonstration that the proposed rail service will significantly reduce congestion on the adjoining or nearby roadways and that the operating costs will be entirely paid by the users or those who benefit from development around stations. More work needs to be done on these questions than on studies to determine where high speed rails or LRT can be built. 
 

Question 4:  Not sure we know where roads or freight rails are not adequately constructed or available to handle known demand for freight movement.

Larry and Ann Schluter (1) (9) (7) (7)

I feel we are really missing out on not using the railroads for more long distance freight.  Europe uses freight trains much more than we do.

Jeff Heegaard (0) (10) (10) (_)

Carolyn Ring (8) (8) (6) (10)

Over-all planning is badly needed.  As you travel the whole state you can almost see where some of the most influential members of the Legislature have expanded roads in their districts. 

Wy Spano (0) (10) (2) (7)

I am biased on the subject of big trucks.  Actually, I’m biased on most subjects but that one particularly because I still work on the issue as a lobbyist for TTX Corp., the organization which manufactures and manages all the specialized rail cars, like those which carry truck containers and those which carry automobiles.  Like all University faculty, I’m allowed to work a bit on outside consulting and TTX is one that I do.  We’re in the process of connecting with environmental organizations and encouraging them to also oppose larger and heavier trucks, especially at the federal level.  There is a push by the trucking industry to have bigger and heavier trucks allowed on the interstates.  We talk about the reality that when trucks are allowed to become bigger and heavier you get more trucks, not less, and you increase the carbon footprint of transportation.  You get more trucks because, by increasing load size you change the economics of shipping, making truck shipping cheaper, and encouraging shippers to move from rail to truck.  At the federal level, this issue will come to a head in the 2009 Transportation Authorization Bill, the 5-year transportation plan which Congressman Oberstar’s committee is working on.  You might be interested in a paper I wrote about the subject a year or so ago.

Joe Lampe

"A member questioned how much these lines are expected to reduce any congestion
along Hwy 10 or other major highways."  Answer: "There won't be real improvement."

The consultants' studies showed at best a few percentage points of improvement.
Fixing Hwy 10 would cost 2-3X more than the train, but it would provide a
5X improvement in carrying capacity. Hwy 10 has to be upgraded anyway,
so the train is a complete waste of funds. Only being done because of the free
federal money. Less than zero cost effectiveness.

Lot's of good questions and info in your report. The industry guys are right.

Al Quie

Publicly subsidized interstate freight and people transport ought to be guided from a national perspective on the federal level with standardization. Publicly subsidized intrastate freight and human transport ought to be decided by the state on a regional basis. Plans ought to be made for a 50 and 100 year future with 10 year mandatory reviews and updating. Both the Legislature and MnDOT need to reform the way they plan and make decisions. 

Joe Mansky (8) (10) (8) (7)

Ray Cox (0) (10) (5) (10)

William Kuisle (2) (0) (2) (5)

Question 1:  Not until the bridges and roads are brought up to standards that can handle them.

Question 2:  The consumer is going to pay for it one way or the other. It is either going to be in higher taxes on fuel the consumer burns or higher prices that are passed on in products due to fuel taxes in transporting them. It is better the consumer sees taxes and know the costs when they pay the taxes themselves.

Question 3:  They are very expensive and heavily subsidized.

Question 4:  It is a business and the government should stay out of it.

Malcolm McLean (3) (2) (8) (6)

Scott Halstead (0) (10) (_) (10)

Question 3:    High speed rail should be 200+ miles per hour and requires exclusive rail lines.  A 4-5 hour train ride to Chicago is not high speed.  Commuter rail and LRT should utilize abandoned or underutilized rail lines.  The State of Minnesota wasted $317 million dollars to carry an estimated 2,000 riders per day between Big Lake and Minneapolis on the busiest rail line in the state with minimal opportunity to increase capacity.  Can any transit planners in this state perform a total cost/benefit analysis? 

 

Question 4:      My experience in Vietnam unloading and backloading ships including containerized ships and regular cargo vessels made me a firm believer in containerization, piggybacking on rail to/from regional rail/truck centers (outside the major cities).  The excellent rail management systems can move freight at near the same speed as trucks at much lower cost and the trucks can more effectively move freight regionally and locally.  The Twin Cities should consider freight (everything except small package pickup and delivery) overnight to maximize efficiency, reduce cost and help with road congestion.  

 

Marianne Curry (0) (10) (5) (5)

Paul Gaston (5) (10) (10) (10)

Terry Stone (8) (5) (5) (8)

Question 1:  This issue is typically presented as a simple pass-through issue, i.e., should we let longer trucks and trailer assemblies pass through Minnesota. Legalizing such trucks, however, will foster terminals; and Minnesota will become both and originator and a destination terminal for such commerce. 

Question 2:  The two enemies of Minnesota highways are frequent freeze/thaw cycles and the synergic effect of high-weight (high inertial) impact from high-speed trucks. The question can be construed to ask whether heavier vehicles should pay more than lighter vehicles; or whether they should pay more than they are paying now. My response is to the former because I lack any data whatsoever to support the latter.

Question 4:  The maintenance/development of rural cargo capacity is critical to a vital, diverse and traditional Minnesota high quality rural life style.  I support it with enthusiasm. The idea runs contrary, however, to the work and ideology of social planning enthusiasts, Smart Growth gurus, Sustainable Development proponents and Agenda 21 adherents. These folks support the efficient delivery of communal services, the effective control of human transportation behavior and the removal of human activity from environmentally sensitive areas. This means that people should live in cities. A low-density population (achieved through downzoning) is tolerated on arable land and all other land is to be returned to the reference condition; defined as “little or no anthropogenic perturbation”. Production and cargo transport outside high-density metropolitan areas run contrary to this entire paradigm.

Tom Swain (3) (8) (5) (5)

Kent Eklund (8) (8) (9) (5)

John Nowicki (0) (7) (7) (5)

Roger Scherer (5) (5) (0) (10)


 

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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