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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Supporting State and Regional Governments to Strategically Plan for Freight Investments

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, are an economic and transportation hub not only for the state but for the Upper Midwest area. The freight transportation system has historically played—and continues to play—a critical role supporting the region’s economic status, competitiveness, and quality of life.

The Challenge

Freight transportation is critical to the Twin Cities, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Metropolitan Council (Met Council), the region’s metropolitan planning organization, identified a challenge in developing a coordinated strategy that ensured a high-functioning freight transportation system.

MnDOT and the Met Council approached Volpe to help improve collaboration among regional freight stakeholders.

The Solution

Volpe supported MnDOT and the Met Council in developing a shared vision and goals for the Twin Cities’ freight transportation system and making freight more visible in the region's planning process. For example, through a series of strategic planning activities, Volpe helped MnDOT and the Met Council identify current conditions/trends, issues (e.g., bottlenecks), and potential solutions. Volpe also helped identify ways to highlight freight priorities and projects, such as by adding freight-related criteria in transportation programming documents to better surface projects benefitting goods movement and the region’s and state’s economies. 

To connect MnDOT and the Met Council with others engaging in similar efforts, Volpe organized and facilitated a peer exchange comprised of eight peers from around the country, which sparked dialogue around best practices and lessons learned. Volpe also helped customize a national research project’s scenario-based approach to freight planning (on “Future Freight Flows”) to the Twin Cities and its diverse stakeholders.

Volpe also developed The Story of Freight in the Twin Cities, intended to help general audiences understand the important connections between the Twin Cities’ freight transportation system, economic development, and the region’s quality of life.

The Impact

The project helped MnDOT and the Met Council identify a shared vision while paving the way for future collaboration.

MnDOT intends to use the Story of Freight document to help update the state freight plan, including its recommendations and performance measures. Furthermore, the document, which is posted on MnDOT’s website, has helped the agency more clearly communicate with the public. The Met Council has used the document to inform meeting presentations. MnDOT and the Met Council are also planning a joint work plan to continue the conversation sparked by the project.

The project also helped develop a community of practice around freight planning, programming, and stakeholder engagement.

For additional information on Volpe’s work with MnDOT and the Met Council and the project’s impact, read the related article "Collaboration is Key to Efficient Freight Movement and Regional Economic Vitality."


Freight truck driving along a roadway parallel to a rail yard with trains.
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Metropolitan Council

“Volpe helped us streamline [the MnDOT and Met Council planning process] into the opportunity areas for collaboration, and then they helped us develop some action steps within each of those opportunities."

     -Metropolitan Council


"[The project] challenged us to think hard about all dimensions of freight planning, and helped point us in the right direction with respect to the development of a regional strategy and agenda."